Named after the Rolling Stones’ drummer, Boston quartet Watts make a sound that’s trashy, yet tight. The chief influences behind their sound are The Faces, mid-period Replacements and (unsurprisingly) 1970s Rolling Stones, so you’ll know instantly what they sound like. Dan Kopko’s vocals have a slightly gravelly edge that’s well suited to their four chord, cranked up rock ‘n’ roll, and while the main ingredients of their sound have been heard time and again from similar outfits, Watts are a band more than worthy of your time.
After a great drum and guitar intro from Johnny Lynch and John Blout, ‘Fight Song’ grabs the listener with its husky vocal and spiky guitar riff during a two-and-a-half minute display of sweatiness which recalls the best Supersuckers material, before they insisted on playing country music. Throw in an angry rallying cry of “This is not a war I believe in” and ‘Fight Song’ becomes a number which captures Watts at their best, exuding a dirty rock ‘n’ roll spirit. Their Stones fixation comes to the fore on ‘Dancehall Days & Nights’ where the lead guitar work creeps farther into Keith Richards territory, with a crystal clear twang ringing out above the grubby riff. It may not be an original sound, but between the riffs and chorus (with great backing harmonies from guitarist John Blout) Watts really come alive. A similar swagger carries ‘She Wants To Rock’, which features Blout stepping up for lead vocals. Also fantastic is their cover of ‘No Secrets’ (originally by Aussie rock band The Angels aka Angel City). A song which sounds almost tailor made for Watts, its infectious chorus captures Kopko and Blout in a moment of vocal unison, while its swaggering chords really hit the spot. ‘Afterburn’ features a couple of the album’s best performances: between the spiky riffs, John Blout’s guitar solo rips from the speakers and, here, Kopko’s raspy vocal style sounds absolutely at home on another number which occasionally nods at other late 70s Aussie rock influences.
There are a couple of moments where Watts slow things down. ‘Don’t Mind’ has a slightly darker vibe, but still with the emphasis on great garage rock. Although not one of ‘On The Dial’s more instantly appealing numbers, it has a solid arrangement – with some of Johnny Lynch’s drum work being particularly appealing. ‘The Times’, meanwhile, is a great showcase for key changes and backing vocals. With a relatively big hook and bar-room vibe, it’s not especially sophisticated, but you wouldn’t want it to be. ‘Girls On Holiday’ is slightly quieter than a lot of ‘On The Dial’s other songs, but a ringing guitar and great chorus are on hand to provide a couple of great hooks. The weak point here is undoubtedly Blout’s guitar solo where he noodles up and down the fretboard without breaking into anything important – but to make up for that, you could always spin ‘Afterburn’ again!
The songs aren’t too varied, but the production values are great for a self-released disc (albeit slightly too much in favour of mid-range and treble aspects, but even so, the sound suits the music) and there are no obvious duds among the thirteen numbers. Watts are unlikely to win any new converts to the trashy rock ‘n’ roll cause, but for those who enjoy this style of music, ‘On The Dial’ is worth investigating.
Visit Watts here.