Watchers – To the Rooftops

To the Rooftops

The Watchers are like a breath of cool, clean air on an otherwise oppressively hot urban summer day. After spending a day watching the heat rise off miles of pavement, the Watchers debut album, To the Rooftops, would be the perfect album to put on as the sun goes down and you prepare for a night on the town. The Chicago-based group features ex-members of The Hex and Assembly Line People in the lineup, which includes Ethan D’Ercole (guitar), Michael Guarrine (vocals, moog), Chris Kralik (bass), Ted Danyluk (drums), and Jamie Levinson (percussion).
To the Rooftops has such a mix of styles that it nearly defies being pinned down to any one genre. While definitely maintaining a crunchy rock n’ roll base for their music, the Watchers deftly add large drops of soul and funk to their music – and even dabble with dub and no wave – to produce a wholly unique sound. The group plays dissonance against rhythm to create a groove-oriented party album that is sure to please those who like their music more mature and complex than what passes as rock these days. Though To the Rooftops isn’t exactly a retro album, the group takes a much bigger nod to the past than the present and apparently even recorded on the same board that Sly Stone used for 1974’s Small Talk.
Though the nine tracks on To the Rooftops could easily be viewed as one long party jam, a few of the songs really stand out. The disco-funk of “My Cube” is expertly approached and is set apart not only by the guitar, but also by the moog and shimmering percussion. The same is true of the opening track, “Gold Standard,” which is one of the places the Watchers’ experimentation with dub shines through, and the vocals here greatly remind me of one of Fishbone’s mellower moments. Everything here is rolled up nicely into one cohesive package and I think that is why it works so well.
As a first effort together, I think To the Rooftops is a solid release, and the band has lots of potential. Being innovative and unique counts for a lot, especially when the result sounds as effortless and natural as this. The Watchers will likely be warmly received by a variety of music fans, and they surely deserve it as few artists are doing this type of style fusion nearly as well. I think that the Watchers still have their seminal, career-defining album waiting inside them, and they show a ton of promise to do something even better on their next release.