Formed in 1989 from the remnants of two dissolved bands, Ocean Colour Scene were as Mod as Mod could be. It would be another few years before Oasis would bridge the gap between Lad Culture and Post Modernist fashion. But in 1989, the second summer of love was in full swing and 20” flares, a XXL Gio Goi T-Shirt and a bucket hat were de-rigueur. Meanwhile, OCS were busy rocking the invisible ties, paisley cravats and sharp shirts that would one day become the corner stone of Liam Gallagher’s Pretty Green fashion label.
Signed to Pfftt records, the band recorded their debut album in 1990. However, when Pfftt was swallowed up by Phonogram, the album was remixed against the bands wishes in an attempt to cash in on the Madchester wave sweeping the country.
In dispute with the record label, they were effectively forced into redundancy with no outlet for their music. The turnaround began in 1993 when the Modfather himself Paul Weller invited OCS on tour to promote his first solo record. Weller was so impressed, guitarist Steve Craddock and front man Simon Fowler were asked to contribute on Weller’s Wild Wood album. Bassist Damon Minchella would be invited (along with Craddock) to become part of the Weller touring band and only drummer Oscar Harrison didn’t get a look in. To be fair, Weller’s drummer at the time was Steve White, older brother of Oasis drummer Alan and there’s no way you’re going to un-stool a White from his place behind the kit.
The band started touting a demo around the industry in 1995 once they were free from their Phonogram contract. This caught the ear of a certain Noel Gallagher who invited them on tour to open for Oasis. A record deal with MCA followed soon after and April 96 saw the release of second album Moseley Shoals, a nod to the legendary Muscle Shoals Studios in Alabama. Recorded at their own studio in Birmingham, the record saw Paul Weller returning the backing line favor by providing keys and vocals on the album.
Another helping hand came from the UK TV Show where mid 90’s culture converged, TFI Friday. Filmed in studio converted into a pub, host Chris Evans was the darling of the media at the time. He used this influence to get a show commissioned where his favorite bands, actors and comedians came together to get drunk on live TV at 6pm. Anything could happen and usually did. Everyone who was anyone wanted to be a guest and everyone who wanted to be someone watched. The theme tune came from Moseley Shoals opener, The River Boat Song.
The fade in from The Circle then quickly brings you into three and a half perfect minutes of harmonies, pounding pianos and biting guitar fills that make this track the go-to tune of many OCS fans. The soul in Fowlers voice becomes evident on Lining Your Pockets and its lyrical content digs deeper than elsewhere on the album. The fade out blends to the fade in of My Fleeting Mind a Donavanesque 60’s throwback with lush layers of guitars that form soulful whirlpools. 40 Past Midnight is a piano stomp that shows shades of Northern Soul. One for The Road and It’s My Shadow are great little tunes that make you want to roll down the windows and feel the wind in your hair as you sing along and drum the wheel.
Craddock cranks up the tweed amplifier for barnstormer Policeman and Pirates. With an infectious chorus. Fowlers tendency to write lyrics by improvising into tape recorder often turned up gobbledygook. They say there’s a fine line between madness and genius. However “Nero and Pilate can easily explain why Policemen and Pirates get stoned in Glasshouses just finding their way” as a chorus, surfs that line like Kelly Slater.
Ballad The Downstream is a decent number but it’s really just creating the lull before You’ve Got It Bad. Everything about this track from the flanged guitars, the 4/4 drums, the pounding bass and psychedelic solos are nothing short of brilliant. Once the fadeout has panned around your speakers, Get Away isn’t as anthemic, as driving or as catchy as a lot of tracks on this album. But it’s one that shows the skill set of the band and sees the album out by making you want to listen to Led Zep.
Moseley Shoals is an album that’s brilliant in its simplicity. Recorded at their own Moseley studio and produced by Brendan Lynch, it’s not full of fancy tricks, it’s not over produced, it’s just a record put together by four guys who are good at their craft. By comparison, this record stands the test of time a lot better than most mid 90’s indie and was followed closely by compilation of demos B-Sides, Seasides and Free Rides which served as a companion piece to Moseley Shoals. The 2012 Moseley Shoals reissue available on Spotify rolls both these albums into one. So take a couple of hours, and put it on. If you were in Great Britain in the mid 90’s, it will remind you of how good it was to be alive. If you weren’t, it will just make you wish you were there…