OCEAN COLOUR SCENE 'One From The Modern' Was A Band At The Height Of Its Powers

Published on 8 April 2021 at 13:42

By Paul Laird

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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.


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