The early ‘90s saw a major resurgence in England of 1960’s pop-rock values, spearheaded mainly by the likes of Oasis, Paul Weller, Stereophonics, Blur, and a host of other British bands. Part of that movement was Ocean Colour Scene, a group who for some inexplicable reason copped a beating from the English music press at the time, perhaps even more so than The Spice Girls – which was extremely unfair, because Moseley Shoals, released more than twenty years ago (in 1996 to be exact), arguably remains their finest and most accomplished musical statement.
Influences range from The Beatles, Eric Clapton to 10cc, and as derivative as the record might be, many of these songs have enough exuberance to make this album far more than merely a pleasant platter of accessible retro-rock.
“The Riverboat Song” gets things going on a high, with a guitar riff by Steve Cradock reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s “Four Sticks,” along with a sizzling solo, as Paul Weller’s organ pumps away in the background. At times singer Simon Fowler’s lyrics can be somewhat cryptic: “I see double up ahead/Where the riverboat swayed beneath the sun/Is where the river runs red,” yet without ever sounding clichéd or trying to be too clever.
The Beatles inspired “The Day We Caught The Train” is another memorable tune, while Weller makes a further appearance, this time playing guitar on the Trans-Atlantic pop of “The Circle,” (which explains why it was released in the US as a single), followed by the anti-anthemic “Lining Your Pockets.” OCS take us on a post-acid-pop journey with “Fleeting Mind,” before revealing their affection for Sixties Soul on “40 Past Midnight.” There is some Brit-country (“One For The Road”, “The Downstream”), social commentary (“Policemen & Pirates”), and psychedelic-rock (“You’ve Got It Bad”).
Fowler pleads his way through a soulful “It’s My Shadow,” a song which offers comparisons to Oasis, however neither Noel nor Liam have ever written anything quite so delicately expressive. The jammy “Get Away” is the nearest thing to a vocal/guitar mini-epic here, a sort of cross between Small Faces and Spooky Tooth, and closes out the album rather nicely.
Moseley Shoals did very well on the UK charts, though failed to crack the all important US market, despite positive reviews and long months of touring. It was this LP that would turn Cradock into a major-minor guitar hero, having been recruited by Weller in 1992 and with whom he continues to work/collaborate to this day. And while not exactly the 33rd greatest album of all time (according to Q Magazine), fans of Weller, Brit-pop, and Sixties psychedelia will not be disappointed.