Upon hearing On The Dial for the first time, the music made me want to get my 1967 Mercury Cougar out of its winter hibernation, fill up the tank with gas, slip the disc into the CD player (do you think a music guy would still have the stock AM radio), roll down the windows and hit the open road.
Hailing from Boston, Mass., Watts waxes nostalgic for the Classic Rock era squarely hitting the mark of this signature period in music history. Released in December 2010, the group's sophomore album, On The Dial, a follow up to their 2007 debut One Below the All Time Low, collects 11 originals and a cover of the 1980 hit by The Angels, a late '70s /early '80s Australian band, titled "No Secrets." The band's sound combines straight ahead rock and roll with elements of new wave, punk, and 70s glam; think Bad Company and Cheap Trick packaged neatly together.
Sporting the classic rock lineup of four members centered around a two guitar attack and anchored by bass and drums, Watts includes Dan Kopko on lead vocals and guitar, John Blout on guitar and vocals, Craig Lapointe on bass guitar and vocals and Johnny "Rock" Lynch keeping the beat on drums and vocals. Each member of the band takes a turn on vocals, however it's Kopko's low, gravely voice that provides the majority of the vocals on the record. Though not close to the sound of the smokey, whiskey soaked growl of newly honored Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Tom Waits, Kopko's vocal range is still somewhat limited. Yet his rasp does not detract greatly and fits the genre well.
Kopko's songwriting honors his musical heroes with the songs sounding like a lost album from the late 1970s. These riff laden songs push and grind their way into your head until they've got you humming singing along to the chorus. The lyrical themes include girls, drinking, dancing, cars, records, and playing rock and roll. No boundaries are pushed here either stylistically or thematically, but that doesn't mean that these songs aren't fun and engaging. The songs are a perfect soundtrack to hanging out with your friends at the bar and tossing back a few cold ones watching the girls on the dance floor in front of the band. Watts clearly proves that the classic rock formula still works.
"Dancehall Days and Nights" demonstrates these points perfectly. Watch a video of the song below -
Fans of Bon Scott era AC/DC should clearly hear some similarities to the songs that Watts presents here. The distortion from Blout's lead guitar and Kopko's rhythm guitar falls short of Angus and Malcolm Young's heavy riffs, but every so often there's a hint of those classic players' sound. Even the sound of the album's recording seems to mimic the "dead room" sound of '70s where sound proofing was the hip technique of the era.
Presented in a nice, bright digipack CD style package, the album gives the listener only the very basics for liner notes. It's unfortunate for bands with a lower budget that they can't press their albums to vinyl because On The Dial is a perfect candidate for the warm undertones with slight crackle/pop sound of a needle on vinyl spinning on the turntable.
In light of last weekend's Record Store Day we suggest that if you're in the Boston area please just run down and support your local record store, Newbury Comics. Otherwise for the rest of the lazy internet crowd you can purchase the album online at Amazon, CD Baby and iTunes.
Watts - On The Dial track listing (Tracks highlighted below are streaming audio)
1. On The Dial
4. Time To Give The Devil His Due
5. Girls On Holiday
6. Dancehall Days & Nights
7. She Wants To Rock
8. No Secrets
9. Don't Mind
10. Fight Song
11. The Times
12. Sweethearts Of The Radio
A video of Watts playing live at their CD release show from December 2010 can easily be found on You Tube. Also, check out photos of the band from a performance last month at The Rosebud Bar in Somerville, MA here.