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Ocean Colour Scene: Many Happy Returns To 'Moseley Shoals'

Wednesday, 13 April 2016 Written by Graeme Marsh

To mark the 20th anniversary of ‘Moseley Shoals’, Ocean Colour Scene will play their second album in its entirety on a tour of the UK, including two hometown shows at Moseley Park in Birmingham. The record, released in April of 1996, is of course where the band took off, despite achieving a level of success with their eponymous debut four years earlier.

The story of the record, and its effect on the popularity of the band, has been discussed numerous times. With Steve Cradock earning a wage by playing session guitar for Paul Weller, he selflessly used that money to keep them afloat during tough financial times in their early days.

Weller became a fan in the process, and subsequently appeared on a number of ‘Moseley Shoals’ tracks, while Noel Gallagher was also a friend of the band, a tie that would lead to OCS playing on the bill at huge Oasis shows at Maine Road and Knebworth in the future. These two legends would help promote the band at various stages, but it was another celebrity admirer who was key in their breakthrough.

At the time, Chris Evans was hosting the flagship Radio 1 Breakfast Show. “Without him, all of the endorsements and all of the experience that we’ve had, we would never have been revealed to anyone,” singer Simon Fowler explained to the Birmingham Mail. “Within weeks we were new pop stars which seemed most peculiar after seven years.”

Cradock has also pinpointed the importance of Evans’ influence. In a recent interview with Express & Star, he discussed the broadcaster’s adoption of The Riverboat Song: “Two weeks in a row he made us single of the week because he loved it so much. From that, it went to TFI Friday. Without a shadow of a doubt, he broke the band.”

The song became the intro that played as guests made their way into the studio during every show, a routine that was recreated for the programme’s recent re-run, where Cradock perform it live. But, despite becoming an anthem of a heady era and charting at number 15 in the UK, The Riverboat Song would not be the biggest hit to come from ‘Moseley Shoals’.

The Day We Caught The Train, perhaps the second most memorable song the band has ever penned, achieved the highest chart position of all the  singles from the album, reaching number four. But because of their popularity, both of these songs have been played to death. In this respect, TFI Friday inadvertently helped create a monkey for Ocean Colour Scene’s back by flogging that riff, in particular. Their continued resonance has cast a huge shadow over the rest of the album and 10 other songs that have been, by direct comparison, unfairly sidelined.

‘Moseley Shoals’ spawned two further singles, but recalling these is more difficult. You’ve Got It Bad peaked at number seven in the UK, while The Circle reached number six, both higher than The Riverboat Song. Fowler classes The Circle, featuring Weller on guitar, as one of the best songs he’s written and it’s undoubtedly a gem.

Based around another top riff, the song quickly builds into another essential cut with the guitar work remaining outstanding. You’ve Got It Bad, meanwhile, was another upbeat treat and, not for the first time on the album, there were shades of the Who in its execution. Cradock’s magnificent playing made the track soar, sounding at times like a young Johnny Winter.

Another track to bear echoes of the Who is the epic album closer Get Away, a near eight minute masterpiece that meanders through quiet passages and thunderous sections. Speaking to Louder Than War in 2013, Cradock credited producer Brendan Lynch and Weller with the structure of the song.

“I think the defining track that they did and worked really hard at was Get Away, because it was like an eight minute loose jam,” he said. “I mean the song was there and we’d jam it out, but the way they edited it and mixed it I thought it was the standout track with their signature sound.”

Elsewhere the acoustic-led Fleeting Mind – another of Fowler’s most satisfying creations – boasts a brilliant melody, decent chorus and further flashes of electric guitar genius. One For The Road also features Weller, this time on backing vocals and piano, while It’s My Shadow bears favourable similarities to The Day We Caught The Train. Policemen & Pirates is possibly the greatest of all the album tracks, though, and is a rousing effort featuring yet more outstanding guitar work.

The Britpop tag is an uncomfortable fit for ‘Moseley Shoals’. It’s more a soulful mix of throwback ‘70s classic rock meeting mod revival, with a dab of Madchester for good measure. The guitars, in particular, surpass the work of the majority of the band’s contemporaries.

Annoyingly, the saturation via radio and TV of two classic singles is probably one of the reasons you’re likely to find copies of the album at car boot sales all over the UK. It’s a fate that many a Britpop album has suffered, as the genre has not weathered particularly well, but do yourself a huge favour and, rather than sending it to the boot sale graveyard, give it a spin. This is an excellent record that deserves discovering all over again. Many happy returns.

Ocean Colour Scene Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Fri July 15 2016 - BIRMINGHAM Moseley Park
Sat July 16 2016 - BIRMINGHAM Moseley Park
Sat July 23 2016 - LEEDS Millennium Square
Sun July 24 2016 - LEEDS Millennium Square
Sat July 30 2016 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE Times Square
Thu December 08 2016 - MANCHESTER O2 Apollo
Sat December 10 2016 - GLASGOW SSE Hydro
Mon December 12 2016 - LONDON Eventim Apollo

Click here to compare & buy Ocean Colour Scene Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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