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The Ocean Blue – Davy Jones Locker LP (Korda)

20 January 2024
After a string of four beloved alt-pop albums on Sire and Mercury, The Ocean Blue embraced life as underground darlings with their cult status intact. Davy Jones Locker was the band’s first independent release, and it found the band determined to prove that its music could be just as beautiful and winsome away from the corporate machinery. It was the band’s second release with multi-instrumentalist Oed Ronne and last with original drummer Rob Minnig. Nearing its 25th birthday, the album has been newly remastered for its first vinyl LP release.

David Schelzel’s unforced croon and sublime way with yearning melodies remain hallmarks on songs including “My Best Friend.” Ronne follows suit with his Morrissey-like vocal during the lovely but hapless “Consolation Prize.” Crystalline and understated guitar lines traded between Schelzel and Ronne on songs like pop-rocker “I Can’t See You” sound like simplified homages to Johnny Marr’s chiming work with the Smiths, Will Sergeant’s elemental atmospheres with Echo & the Bunnymen, and the minimalist pop perfection of New Order. The beatific instrumental snapshot “Cukaloris” features intertwining 12-string guitars.

The dreamy atmosphere of “Denmark” is an ode to a newfound and unexpected spiritual home found abroad during a turning point for the band. “Denmark came and Denmark marked my soul,” sings Schelzel, wholly charmed. Washes of Schelzel’s fluid chords and Ronne’s sparkling guitar melody dance atop the steady propulsion of Bobby Mittan’s rich bass. Mittan and Minnig drive the bounce and swing of “So Many Reasons,” while Schelzel sings about someone upended by careless speech.

Rooted by an honest-to-goodness power chord hook, “Garden Song” connects to nature and finds perspective in nurturing life outside of one’s own. “Can you sing to yourself with an audience of no one else?,” sings Schelzel.

“Been Down a Lot Lately” describes relatable setbacks with honesty. “Shortcomings tell you who you are,” sings Schelzel. Mittan’s rising bass line and a lighthearted “la la” hook give the song a lift and sense of an underdog who’s wounded but not defeated. The melancholy and haunted “Cake” is another admission of vulnerability. “I don’t know the way out of here,” sings Schelzel. The gentle and intimate “Bottle Yours” proposes an antidote. “Bottle your happiness and put it in jars,” sings Schelzel against Minnig’s waltz-time beat, with hopes that happier memories can be sustaining during gloomy seasons.

The jangly “Ayn” is a wistful and shimmering meditation, with an insistent voice “calling from the corner of my heart” that tells someone what she most wants to hear. Can the voice be trusted? The song sounds hopeful. It’s alluring but unclear. Those qualities are true of much of The Ocean Blue’s music. On Davy Jones Locker, Schelzel and company once again eschew concrete details while coaxing emotional resonance. The listener’s own experience is brought to the music, allowing a deeper connection even when it’s indistinct and impressionistic. (