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“Loud and fast/Hard and slow/That’s how I like my rock & roll,” declares Watts in “Loud & Fast,” the opening song on its sixth full-length LP. The quartet forgot to mention one thing, though: the presence of singalong anthemic hooks, and it has those aplenty here. Watts’ combo of Midwestern fire, L.A. flash and Northeast sneer means it pretty much has no choice but to write tunes with titles like “Shocking Pink” (no word if it’s a tribute to the band of the same name), “Heavy Metal Kids” (ditto) and All Done With Rock & Roll,” and to play them like they’re just as legitimate as the latest Bob Dylan epic – which, let’s be honest, they are. Head-bopping rhythms, succinct guitar solos and frontman Dan Kopko’s brash rasp (when it’s not replaced, as on “The Night the Lights Went Down,” sung with bratty elan_ by drummer John Lynch, or “Breaking Glass,” sung by bassist Tim McCoy) give the songs the conviction so many slick modern rockers seem to lack. It’s what allows Watts to pay tribute to “Queens” (“of the night time world,” in a nod to Kiss without sounding like Kiss) and brag about being “Shady” (rock & rollers) without coming off as cheap posers. The veins of wistful emotion running through “When the Party Ends” (“Nothing stings like history”) and “Seventeen” don’t hurt, either. In the hands of Watts, rock & roll is most assuredly not dead.
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