Here’s how I like to imagine it happened: Teenaged David Schelzel stood on an overlook above Hershey Park in Pennsylvania and pondered the decade that was coming to a close. “I’m going to take the very best of the ’80s and synthesize it into one band,” he said, reaching deep into England, where the very best new wave and psychedelia had emerged, and scooping all of those sounds into one impossibly sweet band.
And so was born The Ocean Blue, which published its first self-titled album in 1989, and captured the zeitgeist of cool alternative music in one quartet (or so we say!). Quite active in recent years, The Ocean Blue again reminded us just how cool they are in a sold-out show at Union Stage last week.
A burst of recent inspirations has found The Ocean Blue recording anew after a pause, and David and his current band released Kings and Queens / Knaves and Thieves in June via Korda Records. The Ocean Blue played the title track, “Kings and Queens,” early in the show to positive response, and the audience absolutely adored it. Having already took the inspiration from the likes of New Order, the Psychedelic Furs, and Echo and the Bunnymen, it sounded to me that The Ocean Blue was adding another layer of inspiration from The Jesus and Mary Chain with the delightfully noise-influenced song.
Stream Kings and Queens / Knaves and Thieves by The Ocean Blue on Spotify:
Well, one can chat all day about The Ocean Blue’s influences but what makes them truly worth seeing is the musicianship and skill of the players on the stage. David’s youthful visage still boasted a voice that was inviting and kind. He slung his guitar as comfortably as if it were a part of him. It was pure joy to see David walk to stage left and huddle down with bassist Bobby Mittan, the only other founding member currently in the very stable group — genuine smiles breaking out between the two men as they collaborated on one of the lush, atmospheric melodies that provide the backbone to their band’s tunes.
In addition to eight new numbers from Kings and Queens, David and company played beloved numbers from across The Ocean Blue catalog. Near the top of the show, The Ocean Blue hooked the audience immediately with “Ballerina Out of Control” from Cerulean and continued to charm with several other tracks from that 1991 sophomore album, including the title track in the middle of the show. The Ocean Blue charmed with “Drifting, Falling” in the first third of the set and got a grand reaction from “Between Something and Nothing” from their debut record.
The Ocean Blue played two covers as well — an admittedly rare indulgence — as the band were in high spirits and many friends were in the room. They took up “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” by The Smiths in the middle of the show, when they were joined by Kenny Jackson of Riverside. And they closed the whole show with a cover of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division in the encore.
Wearing their influences on their sleeves is one of the characteristics that make The Ocean Blue so wonderful, and it is beyond fantastic that the Hershey, Pennsylvania, musicians continue to grow and create — and perform quite actively of late! Give The Ocean Blue a chance to charm you as well, and visit the band’s website.
Here are some pictures of The Ocean Blue performing at Union Stage on Oct. 4, 2019. All photos courtesy Mickey McCarter.