It’s been six years since we last heard from The Ocean Blue, but the sound of Kings and Queens/Knaves and Thieves reveals how not much has changed since this Hershey, PA band first began making music back in the mid-Eighties. Much of this ‘new’ music brings back the best elements of Eighties styles, the same way Stranger Things aims for its smart nostalgia visually. One song titled “All The Way Blue,” for instance, sounds a little like a sister song to Echo & the Bunnymen’s infectious “Lips Like Sugar.” It’s hard to shake the disease for each.
The band also ignores the old axiom, — save the best for — last by placing this album’s finest track at the outset. It’s also the project’s title song, and a real winner. It’s chorus describes how the universe is ever the great equalizer, so to speak.
King and queens
Knaves and thieves
Priests and plebes
Sharing the same fate
It matters not your status in life. TOB reminds us. Good and bad things happen to both good and bad people. Good and bad things happen to rich and poor people, equally. Vocalist David Schelzel tells us what we — deep down — already know. Only in the must melodically delightful way.
Sometimes, listening to these songs may cause you to play a little ‘guess the influence.’ For instance, the locomotive-like percussion-meets-a-Spanish-percussion-groove of “Paraguay My Love,” immediately brings to mind Icicle Works’ “Birds Fly (A Whisper To A Scream” (remember that one?) The bigger influence on The Ocean Blue, however, is — and has always been — The Smiths. Although it’s a little more keyboard-y than most Smiths music, “Therein Lies The Problem” also incorporates a large dosage of Johnny Marr-like electric guitar jangle. One called “9 PM Direction,” though, with its overt organ fills, plays out like a psychedelic ballad — something a tad surprising and unexpected coming from The Ocean Blue.
Kings and Queens/Knaves and Thieves, therefore, provides a lot of what we love about The Ocean Blue, as well as a few new wrinkles.