To the Rooftops (Gern Blandsten)

Watchers 

To the Rooftops (Gern Blandsten)

Lately, hordes of indie rockers have discovered there's life below the waist. Add Chicago quintet Watchers to a burgeoning list that includes Out Hud, Erase Errata, Radio 4 and GoGoGo Airheart, all of which are finding groove in the art, to paraphrase Deee-Lite. Like those ensembles, Watchers evokes a peculiar strain of brainy Caucasian funk that incubated in New York City and England when first-wave punk mutated into postpunk and anything seemed possible on the underground scene. Michael Guarrine sings with the pinched anxiety of a young David Byrne, as if his tie were knotted too tightly, and he also chips in with vibrant Moog drones. Ethan D'Ercole's flinty guitar riffs draw the most obvious parallels to post-punk/No Wave's glorious past (Contortions, Gang of Four, Pop Group), though the effect is more reverent homage than rip-off. The rhythm section is conversant with the skewed dub motion Bush Tetras used to lay on NYC's hipsters twenty years ago. It all adds up to a highly torqued, hip-swiveling celebration of funk's eternal power.

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