On Saturday, their ninth studio album, Ocean Colour Scene may be just as passionate and wobblingly anthemic as they ever have, but there’s also a hint of tiredness around the edges. Not surprising for a band that’s just earmarked their 21st year together, the music suffers greatly from an overall retread feel.
It’s big, loud and brash, smacking of classic radio rock – the sort of stuff you hope to hear in roadside juke joints whose primary claim to fame is that you can toss your peanut shells on the floor. But even in its bravado, it’s a bit too familiar. While they don’t necessarily tread the absolute middle of the road, OCS also don’t really attempt anything new here.
The album opens with a bang in the form of 100 Floors Of Perception, a Bob Seger meets Boston sort of barn-burner about economic downturn. “Take us to the doctor, but the doctor makes mistakes,” Simon Fowler grumbles over loud and loose Skynard-style guitars and a Who’s Next keyboard loop.
Mrs Maylie sounds a bit like the Small Faces paired up with the Guess Who (especially the tell-tale guitar tone made famous by the latter’s American Woman). Just A Little Bit Of Love sounds remarkably like Peter Gabriel‘s Solsbury Hill – an odd change in the lineup of usual suspects, but a decent ballad nonetheless. Postal sounds like an outtake from Paul McCartney‘s last album as The Fireman, complete with fuzzed out vocals, which come across as formulaic, rather than borne of necessity or rebellion.
What’s Mine Is Yours features a Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite style harpsicord and sounds channeled through a bit of Ray Davies‘ weirdness. The OCS website describes the epic closer, Rockfield, as a cross between The Who‘s Baba O’Riley and The Beatles‘ Tomorrow Never Knows. That’s accurate enough, and at least OCS recognise their off-the-cuff apery.
And the litany goes on. While there’s something to be said for reinventing old sounds, and drawing from the rich tradition of the rock ‘n’ roll past imperfect, OCS seem to be merely performing a who’s who of their favourite influences, resting on tried and tested methods for achieving rock ‘n’ roll archetypal semi-greatness. The music is enjoyable enough, and there are a few surprising moments on Saturday, but the surprises are so few and far between as to be lost in the shuffle and plod of dinosaur feet.
Saturday is a pleasant listen and it will probably translate reasonably well to the stage. Longtime fans of Ocean Colour Scene will find this record as instantly relatable as On The Leyline. Those new to Fowler, Craddock and company will likely find it all just a bit too crusty.