Published on September 21st, 2021

The Ocean Blue by Darin Black

Signed out of high school to the same label as the Pretenders and Talking Heads, The Ocean Blue were four teen-agers from Hershey, Pa., who arrived on the heels of The Smiths and Modern English, and certainly could have been mistaken for post-punk Brits. A self-titled debut in 1989 yielded a memorable single, the starry “Between Something and Nothing,” and the band made two more albums for Sire Records, the legendary imprint run by Seymour Stein. They never attained the stature their lineage might have predicted, but The Ocean Blue never completely receded, either. Through lineup changes and into middle age, and on the other side (hopefully) of a pandemic, these indie pop stalwarts greet their fifth decade on an upswing. They visit West Palm Beach in October for a show at Respectable Street rescheduled from 2020.

The band’s second-to-last album, “Ultramarine,” came out in 2013 to the delight of fans who hadn’t heard any new music from The Ocean Blue since an EP in 2004, “Waterworks.” But it’s on their latest, 2019’s “Kings and Queens/Knaves and Thieves” that The Ocean Blue really shine as experienced hands. The sound is tighter and more refined. The music travels a Smiths-era jangle-pop corridor but also fits in with the contemporary dream pop of Beach House.

Singer David Schelzel is still the captivating crooner of the early records. Bassist Bobby Mittan, the other original member still on board, and longtime drummer Peter Anderson provide a distinctively crisp pulse. Multi-instrumentalist Oed Ronne adds painterly atmosphere and detail on guitar and keyboards.

“All the Way Blue” could be an Echo and the Bunnymen track, with Ronne lending a tart, melancholy edge on piano to Schelzel’s entreaty: “Show me the colors of romance / I can see through your rosy glasses.”

There’s a maturity audible in songs such as “The Limit,” sung by Schelzel with an air of recognition that time is limited and nothing wastes it like an unequal relationship: “I’m supposed to be cool, I’m supposed to be kind / But you push it to the limit, then way past the limit.”

The Ocean Blue with special guests Sweet Bronco on October 2 at Respectable Street in West Palm Beach.

~ Olivia Feldman

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