The Witnesses Tunnel Vision

[Howler; 2004]

Styles: rock & roll, garage rock
Others: The Hells, Royal Trux, Rolling Stones, Gin Palace

I like Rock & Roll me. In fact, I'm especially a fan of the Throwaway Rock Lyric. Which is something that The Witnesses churn out with all of the non-specific conviction you could ever want. The record strikes up and the first track tentatively, soaked in a thousand average guitar bands, creeps into existence, (I should've thought they'd call it 'builds' mind) before the bass drum rises up in the mix and whadda ya know, it's time to rock...

"She's my, she's my little mannequin/ Makes me feel, feel like a man again," howls singer Oakley Munson with just enough bravado, just enough of a cocky swagger to ensure you never bother to wonder just what the lyrics mean, which upon light analysis, turns out to be a darkly chauvinistic tale of mistreatment and emotional abuse. Of course, it could just be a bunch of throwaway rock lyrics of the sort that shouldn't be considered on such terms.

As the third track, "Black Eye," kicks in and spends the first eight seconds immersed in dreary chiming indie guitars, the tide is beginning to turn against The Witnesses... But hold on a second, because the track abruptly decides to change direction, it becomes the best song on the record by a mile, a slice of dirty NY blues-rock about emotional repression and the jerky ecstasy of violence, sung by keyboardist Bonnie Bloomgarden.

When Munson takes back over though, the record slides inexorably downhill, suddenly his Jagger-esque vocal poses become all the more obvious, like he hasn't got the energy to cover them up with his own personality any more. This is the problem with so many of the current rash of sleazy garage-rock bands. While they would almost certainly be pretty good fun live, on record there is neither the depth nor the personality to make listening worth the effort. After three songs, the blatantly affected Rock Postures have been worn thin, not because it's wrong or in any way condemnable to take influences and reinvent them, but because they aren't actually re-inventing them.

As I said, I like Rock & Roll. In fact I like raw, dirty guitar bands rather a lot. But convinced as I am that The Witnesses would probably make me dance away perfectly happily in a live setting, their record fails abjectly to inspire. It lacks the clarity, inventiveness, and charisma to ever transcend its all-too-obvious steals. Which are all perfectly excellent, but at some point you see, Jagger decided that actually he didn't just want to be Chuck Berry or Bo Diddley. He wanted to be Mick Jagger. Unfortunately, The Witnesses aren't yet there.

1. Mannequin
2. I Should Not Have To Ask
3. Black Eye
4. Contact High
5. Stop Pretending
6. Time For You
7. Baby Boom
8. Panic Attack
9. Drop by Drop
10. Tunnel Vision

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