REVIEW: The Nightwatchman – One Man Revolution

Band: The Nightwatchman
Album: One Man Revolution
Release: 2007
Label: Sony
Genre: Folk

Side-projects are very often a hit-and-miss affair with musicians, especially when they are a self-described “outlet” away from the main band. Very often they are just a continuation of the same theme, or it’s at least possible to hear similarities between the two sets. Not so in this case, as Tom Morello’s alter ego proves that he can play something very different to his usual eclectic electric guitar style found in Audioslave and Rage Against The Machine. In “One Man Revolution”, he attempts to reignite the old tradition of protest-folk, politics mixed with music, to varying degrees of success.

The acoustic guitar that he holds as a weapon on the front cover should give the listener an indication of what’s to follow: a series of strum-alongs that vary in energy levels and backing tracks, but ultimately focus more on his lyrics than on the music. Those expecting technicality will be disappointed, as there is very little to write home about in this department. What I will commend him on, however, is the warm tone which he captures,especially on the opener “California’s Dark”, and what is most interesting is that the most memorable songs strike a balance between layers of music and yet an air of simplicity. There is definitely a dividing line between the “good” and the “bad” songs on here, but it becomes difficult to place why. “Let Freedom Ring” and“Dark Clouds Above” share many similarities, and yet I gravitate more towards the former.

The tracklisting is a little bewildering, with the energy levels fluctuating from track to track, before petering out at the end. Unfortunately, the single with a video is one of the worse songs, with a jaunty atmosphere and Morello even succumbing to the “Nananananana” syndrome. On the plus side, this song is sandwiched between two fantastic relaxing songs which could quite easily be played around the campfire. The two bonus tracks are interesting, if not mind-blowing; “Alone Without You” is a better version of “The Road I Must Travel” with a twist, “Branding Iron” showcases a rawer and more live feel to the music.

As mentioned, the album mostly focuses on Morello’s unique voice, a rich baritone that can go from a melodic whisper to a full-on pissed-off roar within the same song, and yet it doesn’t sound out of place. I don’t think it would be unfair to call it an everyman’s voice; although it’s not the best by any means, he has a good pair of lungs on him. When he’s not howling like on “Flesh Shapes The Day”, it can be a delight to listen to him, especially on the title track and the touching ballad “Until The End”.
Onthe other hand, this album doesn’t just contain one man and his guitar. He is aided by a variety of instruments ranging from a piano accompaniment to a fully-fledged string/wind section and drumkit. A harmonica also seems to make several appearances in both good and bad capacities: compare “Battle Hymns” to “Union Song”, for example. Another slightly more unusual instrument is the mandolin used on bonus track “Alone Without You”, originally written for the movie Sicko.

All in all, the album is mostly a pleasant listen. Despite what I’ve said about them, the bad songs are mostly bearable, and the good ones definitely make it worth it. If you are curious about Morello, political protest or folk in general, then give “One Man Revolution” a spin.

Rating: 8.5/10

Song To Try:

4 responses

  1. Really like the review, well done! I completely agree =)

    March 22, 2011 at 12:42 pm

  2. I am not really a fan of Morello, political-protest music, etc., but this is an interesting project, I suppose. 😛 Gives me simultaneously more and less respect for him.

    Great review, if nothing else!

    March 22, 2011 at 1:59 pm

  3. @bookworm: Thank you very much =)

    @Protagonist: I agree that it's interesting, in what way does it give you less respect for Morello?
    And thanks for the compliment!

    March 22, 2011 at 6:25 pm

  4. Again I completely agree with you, great review. I happen to love this album but it does suffer from some truly awful lyrics in places.

    March 28, 2011 at 4:59 pm

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