Release Date: Feb 11, 2013
Record label: Cooking Vinyl Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, British Trad Rock
Ocean Colour Scene is one of those British bands that you could call “dependable”, at least in the sense that you’re almost guaranteed to get a new studio album every couple of years. The band is most famous in their homeland for riding the crest of the ‘90s Britpop wave – they have at least one bona-fide classic under their belt with 1996’s Moseley Shoals, which spawned a few hit singles – and for opening for the likes of Paul Weller and Oasis back in the day. With Painting, their 10th studio outing and first record of original material in three years instead of the usual two (though the gap was covered by a career-spanning anniversary box set), the band is clearly travelling a well-worn path of mining ‘60s pop tunes and a bit of psychedelia, and updating those sounds with a deft sonic kick.
Of all of the bands of their era, it’s not especially suprising that Ocean Colour Scene have managed to stick it out this long, consistently rewarding their loyal fanbase with new material. Never particularly concerned with being fashionable, OCS have always given the impression that they’re a group of genuine music fans and, with Painting, have delivered some of their strongest work to date. Importantly, it feels as though they’ve developed as musicians.
Perhaps there's a bit of a sly nod to art rock in the title and album cover of Painting, the tenth Ocean Colour Scene album, but the contents that lie within are without a hint of pretension, favoring the florid trad rock that's been their stock in trade since Moseley Shoals. OCS add some new color by tipping a hat to their baggy beginnings on "If God Made Everyone" -- a dense, percolating cut featuring their heaviest dance rhythms in recent memory -- lathering on backwards strings and guitars on "Professor Perplexity," and opening the album with the chattering of school children on "We Don't Look in the Mirror. " Also, echoes from Simon Fowler's pastoral solo project can be heard, particularly on the baroque psychedelia of "I Don't Want to Leave England," and these sounds accentuate how OCS have added textures to their Weller-worshiping rock & roll over the years.
Last year was owned by craven ’90s nostalgia, which might command just a bit of sympathy for out-of-time ’60s freaks Ocean Colour Scene who, 10 albums in, have never stopped living in the past. Lilting opener ‘We Don’t Look In The Mirror’ perhaps acknowledges this temporal displacement, Simon Fowler singing “Because the face that’s looking back/is looking rather cracked.” But now they’re safely out of what passes for fashion, their retroisms sound more loving than offensive. If we’re garlanding not-so-different stuff on the Coral solo albums, a retrial for these guys could well be in order.Dan Martin .
Review Summary: Ocean Comfort ZoneManaging to physically stick around since the heady days of Britpop, and spiritually since the 1960s, Ocean Colour Scene (OCS) have formed a well worn groove and decided to stay with it. Frontman Steve Craddock moonlights as a member of Paul Weller’s backing band, and in some regards it seems as if the Modfather’s willingness to change and try new modes (his 2012 LP Sonik Kicks for example) might have rubbed off on the britrockmodpop (note: not real genre…yet) survivors. …but let’s not go crazy now.
It may have taken them over 20 years, but Ocean Colour Scene have now reached double figures in studio albums with Painting – no mean achievement for a band whose heyday was at the height of Britpop back in the mid-’90s. Unlike their contemporaries Dodgy and Suede (releasing comeback albums last year and next month, respectively), OCS have never split up, plugging away all these years with only minor line-up changes. Though their determinedly retro ’60s sound was never going to win plaudits for originality, the Brummies’ classic 1996 album Moseley Shoals and its excellent follow-up Marchin’ Already saw them riding high.