Verdict: 3 / 5
Lovers of Britpop can rejoice in the fact that Ocean Colour Scene has been flying the flag for the loose collection of Britpop bands that ruled the airwaves in the mid to late 90s. The band’s last album was in 2007; despite the gap they have been more productive than the two chief bands from that era, Oasis and Blur. Blur is resurrected; hopefully Oasis will get over their problems and join the party as well.
Ocean Colour Scene’s ‘Painting’ is a decent album. It’s folksy, as on the opener, ‘We don’t look in the Mirror’. The melody is somewhat awkward and the lyrics a tad uninspiring but it has a nice sing a long quality. The title track, ‘Painting’ is an upbeat, acoustic guitar based tune that will lift your spirits and remind you of the Beatles. The band uses a plethora of instruments and on ‘Goodbye old Town’ the banjo plucks away sweetly. The music is fun and earthy but mundane lyrics and a weak vocal hook disappoint. Lyrics are surely a weakness on the album, proof of this is found on the silly titled, ‘Doodle Book’. The tune has a catchy beat but singing about doodling in your doodle book is off putting. The band gets heavy and edgy on ‘If God made everyone’ tapping into different genres. You can tell they had fun writing and exploring new sounds but sometimes the mix is unbecoming, ‘If God made everyone’ being a case in point. The mix of 70s stadium rock and U2ish driving bass and drum parts don’t sync that well.
‘Professor Perplexity’ is the most interesting and might be the best song. It has eerie licks and a cool bass line. The band goes ‘Revolver’ invoking one of the Beatles great albums by employing risky and experimental elements in the composition via Middle Eastern scales. After this the album goes mellow and decompresses. The slow and sparse acoustic tracks are dreamy. ‘Don’t want to leave England’ has a good melody and is the best song on the second half of the album, it has good guitar solos and the string segments are well written. The lyrics are better on these chilled tracks. ‘The winning side’ sounds like it was influenced by Crowded House and like that band’s melodies, this song has a wonderful melody on the chorus. You do get the feeling the band should have kept the album down to eleven or twelve songs. It plods along even though individually, the songs are good but not good enough when they are strung together. ‘The Union’ is good mix of acoustic and distorted guitars but feels tacked on the album after all the acoustic songs that sounded more like closing lullaby’s.
‘Painting is an easy album to get into but is marred by a meandering unfocused playlist and silly lyrics. The songs are not exceptional but have a charm and warmth to them. The clever use of instruments like banjo, mellotron, dulcimer and Mandolin has to be commended as well. This is an album not just for fans but can be enjoyed by any open minded listener nonetheless.