Ocean Colour Scene

Mechanical Wonder

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    6
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It's sort of fitting that the first album Ocean Colour Scene released in the U.S. since their breakthrough and masterpiece Moseley Shoals was 2001's Mechanical Wonder, their weakest since Moseley Shoals. It's not that the record is a failure, since it hardly is. It's just -- kind of predictable, really, offering no new spin or variation on OCS's patented blend of mod, early Humble Pie and latter-day Paul Weller. That's not entirely a bad thing, since Ocean Colour Scene does this sound not just better than their peers (admittedly, in 2001, there weren't that many bands attempting this sound anymore; it's a long way from 1996), but holds its own with the bands they pattern themselves after. The problem is that the songwriting has gotten a little mannered, a little undistinguished, and the performances, while sturdy, tend to be slightly flat. This wouldn't be notable if everything on the record was at the same level, since it would then seem to be just a solid, mildly satisfying album by a sturdy group. It's that the band can still hit it out of the ballpark, no more notably than on the opener "Up on the Downside," a swirling, sexy song that is easily one of their greatest songs. There are other moments that click -- the rampaging "Can't Get Back to the Baseline" or the mildly insistent shuffle of "Give Me a Letter" -- but the first song is so good, it overshadows the rest of the record, which is simply good, average OSC. But, One From the Modern explored more territory with better songwriting, and that disappointment is compounded by that lone great single "Up on the Downside," which illustrates that they can still deliver songs as enthralling as "One Hundred Mile City."

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