For 15 years, Ocean Colour Scene have been slaving away trying to put Mod back on the map for one last time. At the time of Britpop, just behind Blur and Oasis, were OCS and their anthem Riverboat Song. Synonymous with the rise of the ‘lad’, they signaled the arrival of the monkey walk, the floppy cricket hat and mockney films made by public school boys.
The problem with OCS is that the song that defines them was written in another era. They’ll always be known as revivalists and Paul Weller‘s pet project – which is a shame because ever so occasionally, they’re more than capable of writing a fantastic tune.
A Hyperactive Workout… starts with a bang, and in Everything Comes at The Right Time, they’ve carved out yet another ‘classic’. If The Riverboat Song floated your boat, then this will take you back to the days when it was the right time for OCS. Next up is the recent single Free My Name, and to be honest it’s another mighty fine song. It’s reminiscent of The Jam when they discovered horn sections, and Weller realised that he wanted to form Style Council.
Unfortunately the listener’s attention starts to disappear as soon as Free My Name begins to fade out. I Love You is a terrible, turgid mess that reeks of faked emotion. Simon Fowler’s voice is stretched and breaks into unintentional vibrato at times, it really is that awful. This Day Should Last Forever will please most hardened OCS fans, but will somehow also appeal to those who wish that Dexy’s Midnight Runners were still an ongoing concern. Imagine the worst song that The Wonder Stuff ever did, and you’re half way there.
Waving Not Drowning sees OCS acolyte Paul Weller strap on his guitar while Jools Holland tinkles the ivories. It’s the high point of the album, a solid performance that points to OCS’ ability to fashion the occasional gem.
One cause of concern is the amount of covers on this album. One can be too many most of the time, but to include three is pushing the limit a little too much. George Harrison‘s Wah Wah gets the OCS treatment, as do Start of the Day (The Real People) and My Time (Bob Andy). This may point to a lack of ideas, but really a lack of ideas has never really been OCS’ problem; they’ve practically made a career out of that very fact.
There’s nothing here to really surprise anyone, OCS are steadily ploughing the same old furrow. You will probably hear the singles and think “I wouldn’t mind this in my car”. Fans will love it, it will be played at Northern Soul All-Nighters that finish at 11pm, and critics will continue to shrug their shoulders whenever Ocean Colour Scene is mentioned. Some things will never change, and one of those things, is Ocean Colour Scene.