Music Reviews

Tom Watson

Country & Watson


On Country & Watson, world-renowned Tom Watson (often associated with his nearly decade-long affiliation with the legendary Red Krayola) continues in the much-heralded tradition of exploding popular music. An obvious explanation of what that means exactly, might be contained in the opening track, “Future History,” which includes a beautiful hook on the surface, but walls and walls of slurping synthesizers, vocal overdubs, and staggering percussion underneath.

Maybe you could look at the hazy Floridian feeling of “When the Cows Come Home.”

It is a dense recording. Overdub after overdub open in a wide field of noises; snaps, raspberries, flanges, wahs, harmonic series ratios, dub delay washes, there are guitars that are playing the song in time and guitars that are fucking up. It’s a big album about going out into the world and fucking up. That’s a questionably comforting feeling.

Take a somewhat conceptual album. Let’s look at Sgt. Pepper’s, an example a lot of people have probably heard. It’s essentially a consistent album, made up of inconsistent and diverse songs. It is a pretend band playing the music, not The Beatles, and there is a musical universe that this band lives in, and the laws of that universe are dictated by the way the songs are structured and recorded, rather than by whatever the image of The Beatles exists. So, by the time you get to “A Day in the Life,” a somewhat bizarre song by any standards, the rules of the album seem to get seriously broken, there’s a sense of fear in that orchestral crescendo that seems to come out of the blue and the way it dissolves into a jaunty little pop song just emphasizes that. Maybe that doesn’t make much sense.

Country & Watson, like many of the albums by his peers (Jim O’Rourke, Red Krayola’s famous mastermind Mayo Thompson, and the constantly baffling and inventive Mark Mothersbaugh, who all make appearances here) function in that sense of disrupted atmosphere, the sense of a sound universe decaying at its seams. It’s emphasized by the fact that half of the album is produced by O’Rourke and the other half is produced by Mayo Thompson. It’s emphasized by the fact that there’s a fourteenth track that isn’t listed and is culled from a live recording, a complete stripping-down of the overdub-ridden album.

So what exactly is the atmosphere on Country & Watson? It’s maybe hinted at by the title. A sense of scenic pastoral life, the harmonica, a finger-picked guitar, and an occasional Neil Young-sounding drumbeat punched into a drum machine. It’s definitely not country music and it’s definitely not aiming to be some clever amalgamation of country and weirdness. It’s music with a sense of the country, disrupted by the great aforementioned sense of fucking up.

Theologian Records:

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