Ferocious Psychedelic Rock and Catchy Guitar Pop from Black Water

by delarue

Jersey City’s Black Water put out an excellent debut album, Disasters, a couple of years ago, setting anthemic 80s-influenced anthems to a bunch of different styles, from ska and reggae to dreampop. Their latest album, Friendly Fire, takes it to the next level: the addition of guitarist Gary Laurie has given them a much more ornate, artsy, psychedelic edge. The first part of the album is a series of ferocious art-rock songs, while most of the rest of it is more pop-oriented. The whole thing is streaming online.

The opening track, Andorra, works a biting,hard-hitting, flamenco-tinged vibe, setting the tone with a couple of tersely searing guitar solos. It segues into the second song, Spin, raising the energy with a stomping menace. As the band make their way through a series of thematic and rhythmic shifts, they evoke artsy 70s jambands like Nektar. Likewise, Miel, the third track, juxtaposes a mellow, Brazilian-tinged verse with a funky, stampeding. furiously chord-chopping theme. Sarcasm and anger are front and center: “Would it be all right if I tied you down so you could be the one to squirm?”

Keep On Movin’ would have been a huge top 40 hit back in the 70s – which is a compliment. A simple, metalish riff gets welded to a catchy four-chord chorus, with an unexpectedly artsy outro. Then Kaleidoscope takes the influences ten years forward: it’s a more ornate take on 80s new wave Motown (think Dexys Midnight Runners). Likewise, Rose (My Old Ways) nicks a chord progression from the Cure for an edgy 80s guitar pop feel.

The poppiest song here is The Thief, its morose lyric contrasting with its catchy, upbeat tune, lit up by a burning but elegant guitar solo. The last song goes back to the art-rock of the earlier tracks. “The war on drugs is a war on us” is the mantra, layers of guitars building to a screaming forest of reverb and maniacal chord-chopping: it’s a great anthem for politically aware stoners.

And here is where this blog does an epic fail. Black Water put out this album last spring, played a bunch of shows and sent a link to the album this way…where it sat, as spring turned to fall, and then one of the band members moved to North Carolina. So Black Water are currently on hiatus. If this is the end of the band, they got the max out of their time together, with two excellent albums. If not, it’s reason to look forward to seeing what Lloyd L. Naideck, Gary Laurie, Adam N. Copeland and Gerry Griffin do next.