Ocean Colour Scene - Saturday
Former Britpop stars Ocean Colour Scene return to form with the marvellous Saturday. After a string of disappointing albums the Birmingham band offer up a collection of songs that harken back to their Britpop past but without languishing in blurry nostalgia. This album is a representation of all that is great about British rock: terrace anthems, heartfelt ballads and weird, left-of-middle songs, Saturday serves it all up, with a cherry on top. This is the album Oasis can't make anymore.
One thought that goes through your head as you listen to the 14 tracks is, how good are these songs going to sound live! Unabashedly big and bold with Simon Fowler reminding everyone just what a top notch vocalist he is, these tunes beg for the arena stage where they can have room to roam. The soul-tinged ‘100 Floors Of Perception’ starts things off with a lovely bang followed by the wonderful fit-for-the-mosh-pit ‘Mrs. Maylie’ which takes a delightful little Herman's Hermits jaunt halfway through before carrying on its way again.
Title track ‘Saturday’ is a delight with Fowler’s lusty vocals pulsating the song along at a glorious pace. ‘Just A Little Bit Of Love’ slows things down and will have the crowd reaching for their lighters as they sing along to the great line “I’m not stupid, I’m just in love.”
It just gets better with every song a winner. The jaunty ‘Old Pair Of Jeans’ is rollicking fun: "I wish you didn't get hung up so easily / When you're bound fall apart you always fall apart at the seams / So worn and so torn..like an old pair of jeans." The gospel-tinged ‘Sing Children Sing’ is epic and inspiring without descending into schmaltz. Then there is the achingly beautiful ‘Harry Kidnap’ and the single ‘Magic Carpet Days’ which is so unapologetically upbeat that it cannot help but dispel the deepest gloom.
In fact there is throughout this album the feeling that this is a fresh start with only the merest nod to the past but without fear or regret, just the assurance that however good it was back then it's even better now. Take 'The Word', a song about not lingering in regret but moving steadfastly forward no matter the obstacles in your way, with Fowler's voice both heart-felt and assured, resigned to whatever the future may hold in store: "It's too bad if you hear the word / and you decide that it's all too absurd / punch the air and believe it / but the crowd cries out its agreement."
The mournful 'Village Life' is the one song that seems to give in to gloom but is so gorgeous that it never descends into self-indulgent depression: "Village life / everybody knows the wife / knows how many pints you like / and where you park the bike at night." This is followed by the scathing 'Postal' which marches along at a furious pace. Folwer's angry vocals, spitting out lyrics of frustration and despair, heighten the song's claustrophobic feel as the singer is assailed on all sides by the sensory overload of everyday life.
The Beatles-esque love-gone-wrong 'What's Mine is Your's', where the singer loses not just his heart but the shirt on his back as well, is delightful: "I don't care for possession / I only had time for love." This is contrasted with the sad 'Fell In Love On the Street Again' with the lonely piano and echoing slide guitar adding to the feeling of intense heartache: "Fell in love on the street again / it's a love that is wrong."
The mood swings back up again however with the final song ‘Rockfield’ (an ode to the studio where the album was recorded), ending things on an upbeat note: "I'll meet you at the gatehouse / I can't be late you see / I'm going to Rockfield....gonna mix some sounds there / out there in the open air."
Ocean Colour Scene may have some ground to cover if they want to get back to the terrain they occupied after the success of their two landmark albums Moseley Shoals and Marchin’ Already but this album should do it for them. Big, bold and beautiful it proves that Britpop isn’t dead, just resting.