The Ocean Blue – Kings and Queens / Knaves and Thieves (Album Review)

The Ocean Blue – Kings and Queens / Knaves and Thieves (Album Review)

Be it in the realm of New Wave, Jangle Pop, or Indie Pop, the name The Ocean Blue never fails to splash its waves of sweet serenity and mellifluous musicality to the initiated. What with saccharine songs like “Between Something and Nothing,” “Drifting, Falling,” “Don’t Believe Everything You Hear,” and “Sad Night, Where Is The Morning?” – which are rarely absent on the list of many a fans of the said genres.

Formed in 1986, in Hershey, Pennsylvania, United States, The Ocean Blue currently consists of David Schelzel (lead vocals/guitar), Oed Ronne (keyboards/guitar/vocals), Bobby Mittan (bass), and Peter Anderson (drums). The music of the band resides in the same guitar-oriented spectrum as that of The Smiths (“What Difference Does It Make?”), Echo & the Bunnymen (“Lips like Sugar”), Aztec Camera (“Still on Fire”), and R.E.M. (“Harborcoat”). Since the release of their self-titled debut album in 1989, five more followed—from 1991’s Cerulean to 2013’s Ultramarine—and the seventh is forthcoming.

Slated for release on Friday, June 21st, 2019, through Korda Records, The Ocean Blue return with their latest offering titled Kings and Queens / Knaves and Thieves. Their first album in 6 years, and complete with 11 new songs, it opens with the slow buildup of “Kings and Queens,” whose keyboard melodies tiptoe like a lullaby while the bass and drum beat like a heart. This sunny predisposition glows even brighter with the upbeat and engaging “It Takes So Long,” harking back to the familiar sound of The Ocean Blue of old. The mood then turns melodramatic with the slow waves of “Love Doesn’t Make It Easy on Us,” only to pick up pace again as “All the Way Blue” splashes next.

A sure album highlight, “Paraguay, My Love” then gallops and clacks like a travelling train, transporting the listener to Post-Punk realms populated by the likes of New Order (“Leave Me Alone”), The Bodines (“Heard It All”), and early Del Amitri (“Heard through a Wall”). After the short interlude “F Major 7,” The Ocean Blue launches into another bouncy, pulsating, and playful track, “The Limit.” Another possible favorite then follows next in the form of the ’60s Sunny Pop–inspired “Therein Lies the Problem with My Life.” The ensuing organ-drenched “9 PM Direction” swims in the same ’60s sonic memorabilia.

The penultimate track, “Step into the Night” is another throwback to early The Ocean Blue; it comes across as a welcome remnant of 1991’s Cerulean. Finally, the low-profile band wraps up its latest aural delicatessen with the slow, piano-oriented ballad “Frozen;” cold, misty, and heartrending, it joins the pantheon of funereal, miserablist New Wave anthems such as “Atmosphere” by Joy Division, “Question of Lust” by Depeche Mode, “Bad” by U2, and “Different Seasons” by Johnny Hates Jazz—a perfect album closer!

Overall, Kings and Queens / Knaves and Thieves proves that The Ocean Blue is still in synchronicity with the wave of its beloved music. It does not fall short nor shallow in alignment with its deep-blue discography. That is why Cryptic Rock gives this album 4 out of 5 stars.

Tour Dates:
6/22: Lancaster, PA @ Tellus360
6/23: Brooklyn, NY @ Rough Trade
6/27: Seattle, WA @ The Crocodile
6/28: Portland, OR @ Holocene
7/26: Minneapolis, MN @ The Fine Line
7/27: Phoenix, AZ @ Valley Bar
8/23: Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts
8/24: Norfolk, VA @ NorVa
9/5: Lima, PERU @ Coco’s Club
9/6: Arequipa, PERU @ El QuinQué
10/4: Washington, DC @ Union Stage
10/5: Vienna, VA @ Jammin Java
11/1: Detroit, MI @ The Magic Bag
11/3: Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall
11/17: Los Angeles, CA @ Echoplex
12/6: Salt Lake City, UT @ Metro Music Hall

Purchase Kings and Queens / Knaves and Thieves:

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aLfie vera mella
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Born in 1971, in Metro Manila, Philippines, aLfie vera mella is a healthcare worker, singer/songwriter, and editor/writer. He was the frontman of the ’90s-peaking Philippine Alternative Rock / New Wave band Half Life Half Death, which released a full-length album and several singles on Viva Records. aLfie worked at Diwa Scholastic Press as an editor/writer of academic textbooks and supplementary magazines, focusing on Science & Technology and English Grammar & Literature. In 2003, aLfie migrated to Canada; he has since been living in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He works full-time at a healthcare institution, while serving as the associate contributing editor of Filipino Journal—a local community newspaper in Winnipeg—tackling Literature, Languages, Cultures, Lifestyles, and Music. aLfie has been a music journalist since the mid-’90s for various print magazines as well as websites. He started writing album reviews for Cryptic Rock in 2015. In 2016, aLfie published Part One (Literature & Languages and Their Cultural Significance) of his Essay Series, Can You Hear the Sound of a Falling Leaf?; in 2021, his first book of poetry, Pag-íhip sa Dáhon ng Kahápon [Blowing Leaves of Yesterday]. In his spare time, he enjoys reading books and listening to music. aLfie is a dedicated father to his now 13-year-old son, Evawwen; and a loving husband to Kathryn Mella, who herself moonlights also as a writer aside from holding a degree in Bachelor of Arts, Major in Sociology.

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