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“Moseley Shoals” by Ocean Colour Scene is celebrating it’s twenty-fifth anniversary, which seems like the perfect moment to look back on their best album; 1999’s “One From the Modern”. Where “Moseley Shoals” is the near perfect encapsulation of the horrors of lad rock, dad rock, trad rock and remains loved only by people who, in their forties, still think a bucket hat is an acceptable item of clothing, “One From the Modern” is the sound of a band operating at the height of their powers.
“Moseley Shoals” has become one of those nineties albums that people who weren’t paying attention think of when they think of the nineties, like “What’s the Story, Morning Glory”, “Urban Hymns” and “Stanley Road” it’s the sound of a band selling lots of records…which isn’t the way to determine the worth of an album. Of course there will be people who only found O.C.S thanks to T.F.I Friday and who were too young to have caught their wonderful debut album “Ocean Colour Scene” and so, rightly, it will have a special place in their hearts. But if we are talking about their best album and not the best selling or the one you heard first…it’s “One for the Modern”.
Where “Moseley Shoals” sounds dated and, in places, lumpen, “One for the Modern” has a lightness of touch, a romance and a lyrical grace that elevates it far above their most “traditional” moments.
It starts with the anti-war “Profit in Peace”, a song that manages to be fiercely political and gloriously anthemic. Forcing a rabble of men in Stone Island cagoules with hard-ons for Liam Gallagher to roar back a song that demands we turn our back on violence is a clever trick. Despite it’s ability to turn a stadium crowd into a church choir it never, ever, strays into cock rock, guitar solo wankery.
This lightness of touch and desire to do more than rock continues with “So Low” which will be remembered by certain elements only for the line “And we laugh and we drink, and we teach ourselves not to think”…the same people who only remember “We only want to get drunk” from the Manics “A Design for Life”. This isn’t a song about how great it is to get right pissed up on a night out with “the lads”, this is a mournful, melancholic, magical slice of introspection and self doubt.
“I am the News” is, at first, fairly trad fare, a bit of The Jam here, a touch of you know who there, but then about half-way through things go a bit psychedelic and you are confronted by the sort of experimentation that is sorely lacking on “Moseley Shoals”. The song itself is another political statement and you do wonder whether many in the audience are really hearing what is being said.
The nursery rhyme fluff of “No One at All” is manna from Heaven for O.C.S critics, it is, sad to say, the dictionary definition of Dad Rock. You can imagine “that” bloke at a party pulling his guitar off the wall to serenade everyone with this. The horror. We’ve all been there. The same could be said for “Families” which seems to have been written with the sole intention of having people say that they sound a bit like The Beatles. Inspiration is one thing, imitation is another. A band with this many gifted people should be above karaoke.
Something much lovelier, more fragrant, follows with “Step by Step” which is so lovely it could be Louis Theroux in song form. He’s lovely, right? Never flustered, always respectful, endlessly fascinating? No? Well, pop in your own favourite lovely person/thing and that’s what “Step by Step” sounds like. It has a shuffling, West Coast, sixties, charm but never sounds like the sort of cheap imitation that precedes it.
Some people would describe “July” as a “banger”. I won’t do that. Not because it’s not a big, bold, crowd pleaser of a song (it is) but because I really don’t like that word…or the people who use it to describe every song released by every band made up of four kids from Wigan they have discovered that week. Listen lads, there are songs that are “bangers”…but once every song becomes a “banger” then no songs are “bangers”. Find another word.
I don’t want to dwell on “Jane She Got Excavated”. I don’t like it. I’m not sure why anyone would. It’s a bit…filler. Know what I mean? Curiously, the next girl to appear on the album “Emily Chambers” is an entirely different creature. It’s almost a stream of consciousness, character portrait. At times it laps at your senses like the tide on the shore, at other moments it is bolder and more strident. A curious little thing.
“Soul Driver” sounds a little like it might have been left on the floor of the studio when they were recording “Moseley Shoals”…that’s not a terrible thing, but it’s not a great thing either. It is just… there. But that is, perhaps, a deliberate thing because it is followed by “The Waves” which is a long, rambling, shoegazery, gorgeous, slab of pop ’n’ rock ’n’ roll. It is, by a considerable distance, the best song on this, their best album…which makes it their best song. Had it brought the album to a close it would have left you a bit breathless, which makes the decision to follow it with “”I Won’t get Grazed” a bit baffling. It’s not a bad song, far from it and it features a gorgeous vocal from Simon Fowler but it’s not the final song.
As some people drop the needle on “Moseley Shoals” today, do yourself a favour and dig out your copy of “One for the Modern” instead…celebrate something worth celebrating.