Ocean Colour Scene gives shout-out to southern soul with Moseley Shoals

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, NOV. 28, 1996

Chatting with hungover rock musicians isn’t always a ton o’ fun, but sometimes you can’t blame them for knocking back a few cocktails the night before an interview. When Ocean Colour Scene guitarist Steve Cradock calls from New York one early afternoon, he’s still feeling the aftereffects of several hours spent boozing with the likes of Who bassist John Entwistle, whose band Cradock’s had just finished opening for on the historic Quadrophenia tour.

The concert pairing was a suitable one, because Ocean Colour Scene is currently all the rage in Britain—even though the group is little-known on this side of the Atlantic—with three singles from its latest CD having cracked the Top 15 there. Vancouverites can discover what the fuss is all about when the Birmingham band plays the Town Pump on Wednesday (December 4). It played here once before, back in ’92, but, according to Cradock, departed that time without the fondest of memories.

“We had a bit of an unfortunate accident,” he recalls, absently noodling on a guitar in his Big Apple hotel room. “Me and the drummer, Oscar, got into a fight in a Chinese restaurant. There was some drunk people there, and the police showed up and everything. It was horrible.”

During their upcoming stay here, Cradock and his mates hope to avoid any brawls in local eateries; in fact, they might take some time off to book a Vancouver studio and cut some demos for the next CD, which is already half written. After finishing its North American tour and a few pre-Christmas dates in Japan, the quartet will head back to its home base of Moseley, the area of Birmingham referred to in the name of its current CD, Moseley Shoals. (The title is also a playful poke at the famed Muscle Shoals recording studio in Birmingham, Alabama.)

Considering its titular reference to the home of southern rock, it’s no wonder that Moseley Shoals’ opening track, “The Riverboat Song”, sounds so much like a modern update of the Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post”. That simmering number will no doubt make an appearance at the Vancouver show, although one other new tune, “Policemen & Pirates”, definitely won’t. “We don’t play that song live,” says the forthright Cradock. “We don’t really like it. The song’s alright, but it’s too many words, isn’t it? We keep gettin’ them wrong.”

Apart from “Policemen”, Cradock complains little about the songs on Moseley Shoals, which feature guest appearances by his buddy Paul Weller (ex-Jam and Style Council) on organ, piano, and guitar. The album was coproduced by top British knob-twiddler Brendan Lynch.

“We were equally responsible for producing the stuff,” points out Cradock, “but at the same time it’s nice to have somebody who’s not actually in the group—or not even part of the Birmingham scene—who you can just throw ideas off of. But it’s hard to define production—that’s why all the journalists are trying to depict why things sound good or why things are so shit. It just happens from fun and exploration.”

The luxury to explore musical ideas in the studio is one that Ocean Colour Scene hasn’t always been able to indulge in. According to the group’s current MCA Records bio, its previous record company sent the band back into the studio—twice—because it didn’t think its finished product was up to snuff.

“It didn’t surprise me, really,” says Cradock, getting cranky at the memory of his old label’s control-freak traits. “I don’t expect things from record companies, you know what I mean? They don’t have the fucking intelligence we were all born with, really.” To punctuate his testy words, Cradock bangs out a power chord on the guitar he’s been gently fingering up until now.

Sounds like that hangover he’s nursing may be taking a turn for the worse.

 

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