The Ocean Blue embarked on an all-too-brief four-city tour last week to commemorate the remastering of their first three albums.
They only played in New York City, Philadelphia, DC metro, and Lancaster, Pa., as those were “their very favorite cities” where they first got their start, explained frontman David Schelzel at their local show on Saturday.
Last week, The Ocean Blue reissued their first three albums — The Ocean Blue, Cerulean and Beneath the Rhythm and Sound — on vinyl, and they embarked on a short tour to commemorate the occasion. It was an opportunity for the band to recapture their youth and play those cities they played early and often as a quartet from Hershey, Pa.
But those who went to those sold-out shows were perhaps more successful than the band in recapturing their youth. The Ocean Blue performed their first two albums in their entirety, treating the capacity crowds, such as the one at Jammin’ Java in Vienna, Va., to popular favorites as well as songs never previously performed live from Cerulean and their self-titled debut.
As an American dreampop band with clear new wave and neo-psychedelic influences, The Ocean Blue have never been shy about wearing their hearts on their sleeves. Their concerts are famous for including covers from artists they admire, and The Ocean Blue did indeed hit “Love My Way” by the Psychedelic Furs in their encore.
The audience in New York at the Mercury Lounge on Thursday definitely hit their vibe in the first set, however, with selections like “A Question of Travel” and “When Life Was Easy.” Both songs demonstrate how The Ocean Blue really combined elements of a later-period Cocteau Twins, when the dreampop innovators became a bit more poppy, as well as The Smiths.
The Smiths are an unlikely inspiration perhaps given the bite of the Manchester indie darlings, but it’s impossible not to hear textures of “William, It Was Really Nothing” or “Ask” in the background of songs by The Ocean Blue. Indeed, Cerulean ends on the very Smithsesque title “I’ve Sung One Too Many Songs for a Crowd That Didn’t Want to Hear.”
At Jammin’ Java, the excitement among the crowd was palpable for “Ballerina Out of Control.”
The song perfectly captures The Ocean Blue at their best with its bittersweet themes, resonant melodies, and David’s pleasant voice, which strikes the right tone of expectation for a song that deals with the search for ideals. The song could have come straight from UK contemporaries of The Ocean Blue, like the Jesus and Mary Chain, but the song’s atmospheric keyboards and its unhurried gait are hallmarks of The Ocean Blue and the band’s flavor of dreampop.
Watch the official music video for “Ballerina Out of Control” from The Ocean Blue’s second album, Cerulean, on YouTube:
During a second set dedicated to the first album, The Ocean Blue, the band really hit their stride in time for the songs “Love Song” and “Ask Me Jon.” “Love Song” inspired a great audience singalong in its refrain of “Singing, ya oh oh/Ya oh oh, ya oh oh.” David and the audience shared a call and response “ya oh oh” as the song’s jangle pop guitars rose and fell along with the vocal.
And although the sax was absent on “Ask Me Jon,” it remained a crowd-pleaser as well. It’s a song that allows you to imagine Morrissey fronting sophistipop sophisticates like Spandau Ballet circa 1989. The band also cleverly recognize the similarity in melodies of “Ask Me Jon” and the “Love Boat Theme” and work in lyrics from the ‘70s television show into the closing: “Come aboard; we’re expecting you.”
Of course, the audience also welcomed favorite “Drifting, Falling” early in the second set.
Watch David perform “Drifting, Falling” solo and live from the self-titled debut album by The Ocean Blue at KEXP in Seattle on Feb. 21, 2013:
In addition to the cover of “Love My Way,” The Ocean Blue performed their unreleased single “City Traffic” in the encore. “City Traffic” is another perfect song by The Ocean Blue, full of jangling guitar and sunny vocals with great drum riffs from the talented Peter Anderson.
Listen to previously unreleased song “City Traffic” by The Ocean Blue on Soundcloud:
While The Ocean Blue wrapped up their brief tour last night in Lancaster, you can buy their reissued vinyl albums from Korda Records and Shelflife, which pressed them on 180-gram vinyl with limited color and black editions. The albums are available online.
With any luck, we’ll be seeing these guys again soon. After all, they had a great release via Korda in 2013 with Aquamarine, putting them back into fine form at a time when audiences are fully embracing all of the ingredients that make The Ocean Blue great.