Beggars Banquet, 2006
I discovered this band by accident after finding myself at a gig on their current tour promoting this, their second album. I was attracted to the show by their support band Pure Reason Revolution, but came away more impressed by the real headline act, Oceansize. They play a serious-minded indie rock, in the tradition of bands like the Verve, or, more recently, Doves, with rich productions and an indistinctive-voiced singer. But they have so many influences that it's difficult to discern what their truly individual sound is. Oceansize's thing is for gluttonously-arranged long songs. Too long to absorb when hearing them for the first time at a gig, but they embed themselves after a few listens.
Most of the time they're not proggy or spacey, they just like to luxuriate in big fat riffs. As on the thundering opener "Charm Offensive", they have a knack of building them up into dazzling full-band climaxes which are sure to wake up an inattentive listener. Dirty psychedelic guitars, cool Radiohead-style riffs, the rich hyperactive rock of Muse, and dashes of Pink Floyd and Mogwai, all cooked in a stew, all impress. But the album is over-long, and there are too many few songs whose tunes are not strong enough to support the instrumental glut. The single "New Pin" is a relatively upfront tune that works. On "No Tomorrow" I almost think the singer heard me calling him "indistinctive" and responded with some serious blood-curdling shrieks. Great stuff live.
The middle section of the album is fascinating, and is where they start getting distinctively proggy. Porcupine Tree fans should lap up the soft resonating ballad "Meredith", which also recalls the Cure's "Disintegration" with its melodic bass. The highlight for me is the supremely spacey "Music for a Nurse", whose airy pings and patient, swelling harmonies scream Pink Floyd influence. I'm better at distinguishing subjective from objective these days, but I still think they have fantastic control of texture and space here, despite it being obvious "me" music.
Towards the end their addiction to excessive length does grate. On "You Can't Keep a Bad Man Down" I have more than got the point of the massive chorus after seven minutes of it. That could have been the big finale. But at the start of the real closing number, "Ornament / The Last Wrongs" they damage a perfectly good one-riff build-up with a couple of minutes of unnecessary noodling. Fortunately it's redeemed with a lovely vocal-harmony tune to sweep us away.
There are rich pickings here, but Oceansize could be even better with a bit more quality control and subtlety, so long as the tunes don't dry up. Just to mention yet another name, fans of Oceansize might well be interested in veteran Aussie band The Church, who play a similar sort of gluttonous alternative rock. The strength of albums like "After Everything Now This" reveal the 20 years of experience that sometimes seems to be missing here.
Irrelevant aside: having recently got a cheap iRiver MP3 player for recording purposes, this album was the listening test that proved that iRivers have distinctly better playback sound quality than the upmarket iPod.
April 11, 2006