Release Date: September 11, 2007
As Watershed well knows, a live album is a difficult proposition. Their 1994 debut (on Epic Records) didn’t pan out the way I’m sure they’d hoped and now, 13 years later, they’re trying again. The real difficulty with live albums is that it’s hard to find that middle ground between too live, making it difficult to appreciate the music, and not live enough, making it difficult to feel the band’s (and the crowd’s) energy. While this album occasionally strays into the former, overall, it does a fine job of finding the best of both worlds.
Having successfully dealt with the most precarious problems of a live album, you’d think Three Chords and a Cloud of Dust II would be in the clear, but it’s not. It’s real troubles stem from Watershed’s rather generic power pop/pop punk sound. The songs are all solid and there is little doubt that the large hometown crowd loves them (it was recorded at a sold-out show in Columbus, OH). The fact that this is an unedited live recording and nonetheless maintains its listenability is certainly a tribute to the band and their ability to be a tight live act that keeps the show moving. There are a few tracks like the opener, “Suckerpunch,” and the lyrically and musically quirky “Mercurochrome” that stand out, but by and large the songs wouldn’t have large appeal to anyone who doesn’t care for Cheap Trick and all of their many followers. However, if that is your thing, this may be at the top of your live album hit list.
Having captured the energy of their live show, it’s a shame that Watershed doesn’t have a better repertoire to draw in people outside of their established fan base. Having spent time with their latest live effort, I am probably more prone to catch them when they come to town than I am to stock up on their studio efforts.