Light rock tendencies abound in Mount Pleasant’s The Watching Eyes’ recently released debut album, “The Adventures of Captain Rubber Pony.”
Singer and guitarist Nick Hoke’s acoustic guitar playing combines funk elements (à la the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Blood Sugar Sex Magik”) with a Jack Johnson or John Mayer-esque vocal, emotional drawl.
Even Michael Jackson comes to mind.
The drums, courtesy of Ted Coale, again bring the funk but never really delve even into hard rock territory.
“Back Around” shows Coale keeping a steady beat while expounding a bit with a fill here and there.
This song is neat and a little different than the other songs. With a repetitious acoustic anchoring the background, Hoke and crew build up the song’s tempo a bit during the choruses. The bass doesn’t do much slapping; it’s pretty melodic and calm.
“House of Cards” goes the fuzzed-up bass route, but the acoustic guitars still take center stage. Same with Hoke’s emotive, Jackson-like vocal. Starting to sense a pattern here?
Jackson comes into play lyrically, too; some of the lyrics are reminiscent of some of Jackson’s most-beloved songs like “Billie Jean:” “I only saw you walk away from me today May/I looked upon the fridge/I saw no note today/From May/From May/From May,” Hoke belts out.
The Watching Eyes even did a cover set of Michael Jackson songs last Halloween, playing the “Thriller” album in its entirety.
A different instrument takes center stage later in the record: This time it’s the saxophone.
With a rocking and jazz-influenced solo, Dylan Edwards provides the hook on the song that gave the band its name, “The Watching Eyes.”
It’s good to hear a different instrument be up front in the mix and the focus of a song.
A bit of experimentation takes place on “50 Days of Night,” with the sound of an acoustic guitar as if it were recorded on a boombox starting the song out.
Hoke’s vocal has the classic telephone effect on it, sounding like his vocals are coming straight from a telephone.
The Saxophone in the background gives the song a Pink Floyd-like, psychedelic feel to it and a great change of pace for the record.
Unfortunately, this change of pace comes late into the record.
With two songs to go, it would have been nice to hear a bit more outside-the-box sounds earlier on the record.
The introduction to “Better Made” definitely shows the influence RHCP bassist Flea has had on the band’s bass sounds, with a funky line dominating and leading the song.
“Electric Love” closes out the record with another take on the funky, Jack Johnson light rock mold already established. There’s not much to say since it sounds a lot like some of the other tracks on the album.
With their first album in the books, The Watching Eyes are great at combining funky drums, light rock acoustic guitars and Hoke’s greatly emotive vocal into something I’ve heard before while still being a bit fresh.
There’s some experimenting late into the record, but it’s a little too late into the album.
You can check this album out on their Bandcamp page if you’re into it.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars