Tunnel Vision (Howler)
by Brian Varney
The Witnesses are from New York City. Even for someone like me who’s from the Midwest and has only spent a very small amount of time in New York City, it’s obvious from one look at a photo of The Witnesses that they’re pure NYC, through and through. Maybe it’s the trendyish air of studied dishevelment, or maybe it’s the attitude, apparent even from a still photo. I say this not as insult – since when is looking good a bad thing? – so much as a way to prepare you for what you’re going to hear, which is classic, greasy ’70s blooze rock. The Faces and Mick Taylor-era Stones by way of New York Dolls.
However, where The Witnesses part from influences like the Dolls is their lack of band focus. Perhaps it’s the different singers (I count at least three different lead voices throughout the album), or the sometimes-puzzling variety of styles (as an example, take back-to-back tracks “Stop Pretending” and “Time for You” – the former is pure first-wave NYC punk and the latter is a dead ringer for the Hall & Oates tune “Part Time Lover”), but there are times when this feels like tracks from two or three different albums put together. Mixed among the tracks that I love, such as opener “Mannequin” or the slinky and sexy “Black Eye,” are songs that leave me questioning what the band’s m.o. really is.
Variety isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it can be a very good thing in the right hands. However, variety such as this seems to be the mark of a band that hasn’t yet found its niche, one whose members have not yet reached an agreement as to what kind of music they want to play. I’ll definitely check out the next album because the seeds of better things to come are apparent in the album’s best moments, but as of now, I can’t recommend more than a few songs.