"Waterworks" EP now available from W.A.R.?
on our on-line store, on iTunes, Rhapsody, eMusic and other on-line stores
great review of the album from Michael Franco at PopMatters:
The Ocean Blue has always sounded out of place. Formed in the late '80s
in Hershey, Pennsylvania, their sound was rooted in same vein as English
New Romantic bands such as the Smiths and New Order. The discrepancy here
is obvious -- a town known for chocolate and the Amish doesn't exactly
sound like a haven for new wave pop-rock. What made the Ocean Blue musical
outcasts, however, was that their brand of rock was already on the way
out during their formation. By that time, the Smiths had already disbanded,
New Order had seen the last of their major hits (with the exception of
"Regret"), and hair metal had taken over the airwaves. Still,
true to their roots, the Ocean Blue kept making new wave-inspired albums,
making no concessions for mainstream success.
Now, after the grunge and rap-metal phases (one might say scourges), rock
is reconnecting with new wave. Coldplay's Chris Martin is friends with
Echo and the Bunnymen's Ian McCulloch. Groups like Franz Ferdinand and
Interpol claim eighties post-punk as their musical heritage, and lush
atmosphere rules over juvenile aggression. Heck, even Morrissey is hip
again, making numerous appearances on The Late, Late Show and cultivating
a following among... of all groups... Mexican gangsters. With such odd
things going down, you might say the time is ripe for an Ocean Blue "comeback,"
although that word implies initial success. Waterworks, an EP of six songs,
shows why the Ocean Blue deserves respect as an influential band.
The most noticeable difference between this EP and the band's previous
work is that the Ocean Blue have added additional colors on their musical
palette. "Fast Forward Reverse", the album's opener, is a musical
piece composed mainly of synthesizers. This is a rather dangerous move;
unless you're Brian Eno, writing synthesizer songs can seem like a musical
cop-out, the result of not knowing how to actually playing an instrument.
Here, however, the song sets the tone for what's to follow: carefully
crafted ethereal rock.
Indeed, the Ocean Blue not only sound like new wave veterans, but also
like they've soaked up the sounds of some '90s bands, particularly Stereolab
and the Sea and Cake. "Pedestrian" begins with a simple dance
beat, then adds minimal, airy guitar while singer David Schelzel croons
disturbingly vague lyrics: "I walked to the square / I called out
your name / They said you were dead / And we were to blame". Just
what the hell this means is open for debate, but placed against such drifting,
melodic music, the words sound pleasant. Moreover, Schelzel's delivery
is vintage Bernard Sumner, deadpan and foppish.
To be sure, this EP is a terse synopsis of the more brilliant moments
of the last 20 years. These are, however, all original songs, which is
a testament to the Ocean Blue's diversity. Take, for instance, "Ticket
to Wyoming", which is the greatest Smiths song the Smiths never wrote
or recorded. Peter Anderson's drums sound uncannily like Mike Joyce's
laidback shuffle on "Panic", and Oed Ronne's guitar work references
Johnny Marr's pristine and angelic style. More than the mere sum of influences,
however, Ronne plays a guitar solo, something that was taboo for Marr.
And then there's the closer, "The Northern Jetstream". Like
the album's opener, this song is instrumental, with the exception of some
cooing "do-doo-doos". Once again, this piece blends synthesized
elements with acoustic guitar and dance-inspired drumming. Rather than
sounding boringly clinical (which is how most electronic-based music sounds),
"The Northern Jetstream" sounds sophisticated, bouncy, and catchy.
With Waterworks, the Ocean Blue has crafted a fine EP. Thankfully, this
is just a prelude to a full-length LP, scheduled for release next year.
After more than 15 years of trying to find a receptive audience, the Ocean
Blue is positioned for their due accolades. Sure, they won't find mainstream
success, but such a backwards achievement would only degrade the group's
status. Besides, who wants to be loved by the masses when young gangsters
with tattoos are pining for dreamy new wave? Hey, whoever listens, right?