The Chocolate Watch Band – No Way Out (1967, 2012 reissue)

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For a spell there, the Chocolate Watch Band was remembered more for their loony name than their music. Although they were a popular live act in and around their stomping grounds of San Jose, California, their records stiffed, naturally limiting their profile.

By the time the 70’s arrived, the Chocolate Watch Band were all but a dim memory until a few years later when their first single, “Let’s Talk About Girls,” appeared on the unintentionally influential Nuggets album, which featured a spate of forgotten faces from the 60’s. Slowly but surely interest in the group increased, ballooning to the point where their talent was recognized and appreciated throughout the world. Starting in the 80’s, reissues of the band’s grossly obscure recordings began hitting the shelves, turning on a whole new generation of both fans and musicians to their charms.

Signed to the Tower label, the Chocolate Watch Band went on to cut a few singles and a trio of albums for the roster. Not only does the group’s debut platter, No Way Out, plug in as their greatest effort, but it further posts high on the register as one of the finest albums of the decade. A mind-blowing mix of growling garage punk and hallucinogenic voodoo cements the disc, placing it in a space somewhere between the rhythm and blues based rock of the Rolling Stones and the freaky fervor of the Electric Prunes.

Initially released in September 1967, No Way Out, gets the party going with “Let’s Talk About Girls” (video below) A thumping rocker, the savage song adds jingling sleigh bells, shaking maracas and a touch of buzzing feedback into the fire for cool effects. Lead singer Dave Aguilar has often been accused of imitating Mick Jagger a little too close for comfort, but amid the cribbings and coppings he still manages to emit his own inflections and phrasings, resulting in some truly amazing lung power.

The title track of the album twists and twirls to an acid-flecked forum of disturbing sonics and threatening vocals, and a throbbing Bo Diddley beat joins hands with the coiling tone of a sitar on “Gone And Passes By.” An instrumental, “Expo 2000” projects a cosmic “Twilight Zone” type vibe, and the loud and lusty “Are You Gonna Be There (At The Love In)” rattles and quakes with weighty grooves.

Crossing primal energy with experimentation, No Way Out is an accidental exercise in innovation. And that’s what makes the disc so appealing. There was a brief moment when groups could pull off stuff like this, and No Way Out is a solid example of such practices. Heavy, haunting and snarling with venom, here’s an album that belongs in every rock buff’s collection.

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Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 with "Stand By Me" -- which is actually one of her favorite songs, especially John Lennon's version. She's contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as Rock Beat International's associate editor. Paterson has also published Inside Out, and Twist & Shake. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Beverly Paterson
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