You know you’ve found a band with a great sense of humor when their Best Of retrospective is called “31 Years of Obscurity.” And a band leader with high touch, when you get a personal e-mail thanking you for your purchase. After three plus decades, John Andrew Fredrick and The Black Watch released The Neverland of Spoken Things EP in September. The gentle shoegaze and shimmering guitars perfectly complement Fredrick’s rich baritone. Darrin at Janglepophub likens title track “Neverland” to The Lightning Seeds. That’s actually an astute catch that escaped me. However I think it gets closer to the mark when you hear “Neverland” as the alternative Christmas song that isn’t about Baby Jesus at all.
Who is this Black Watch you speak of?
Fredrick hatched The Black Watch in one of my favorite American cities, Santa Barbara, CA. Since those humble beginnings in 1987-88, Fredrick has produced dozens of releases, including this year’s Neverland EP.
The EP’s three tracks kick off with the remarkable title track. “Neverland” launches as a perfectly gazey and gauzy pop gem before evoking a subtle disco underscore of strings like a Jeff Lynne composition. And from that bridge: A triumphant piccolo trumpet that cannot NOT have Mannheim Steamroller as some small inspiration.
I hope you find the same delight in “The Neverland of Spoken Things!”
I made these observations entirely to myself. Then last weekend, while picking up my 17-year-old daughter from her job, she jumps in the car while I’m listening to “Neverland.” With zero prompting or telekinetic ability that I am currently aware of she asked, “Are you listening to Christmas music?” Thus, the genesis of this post was born, like that babe in a manger on a starry night 2022 years ago.
“The Neverland of Spoken Things” – The alternative Christmas song that’s not about Christmas
So much more on The Black Watch’s Neverland
Enough silliness about my alternative Christmas song. The Black Watch fills out the Neverland EP with the driving “Precious Little” and, finally, “Living Backwards.”
“Precious Little” rides a binary guitar line on the strength of Fredrick’s vocals; he is almost crooning here, at times sounding not unlike Morrissey. You can’t say enough about his presence and confidence. Like “Neverland,” “Precious Little” is also a marvel of arrangement. From the opening guitar line, it effortlessly introduces gentle, legato harmonies and a singing guitar solo.
I think you’ll hear that same progressive song structure in “Precious Little.”
Download your copy of The Neverland of Spoken Things EP + top moments of the 35 year catalogue of LA’s The Black Watch at Bandcamp.