Ocean Colour Scene: Yesterday Today 1999 – 2003 review [Demon Records]

Whatever you know about Ocean Colour Scene, it’s key to initially acknowledge their durability and place in the alternative indie-rock scene. Heading all the way back to 1989, when Simon Fowler, Steve Cradock, Oscar Harrison, and Damon Minchella formed the band, named after three of their favourite words no less, here we are 35 years later to celebrate those albums that came after the hits merged effortlessly into the Britpop era.

While the line-up has changed a little bit, with Minchella departing before the 2001 album I’ll feature today, they continue to tour as the band, with Fowler and Harrison also doing their thing on other occasions. Today, I’ll be reviewing with one first-time visit and two re-visits to three albums released from 1999 to 2003, they’ve been remastered by Phil Kinrade at Alchemy Mastering and pressed onto three 140g colour vinyl under the title: Yesterday Today 1999 to 2003, from Demon Records (Order now).

This excellent quality boxset is a nicely put-together set that contains 1999’s One From The Modern, 2001’s Mechanical Wonder and 2003’s North Atlantic Drift. While OCS certainly had their big commercial moment with 1996’s Moseley Shoals and personal favourite B-sides, Seasides and Freerides from 1997 (that recent re-release I review here), I’ve always felt they’re a musician band overall, with influences and friends in high places, including the likes of Noel and Liam Gallagher, Paul Weller and more, and kudos is due to their resilience alongside a committed fanbase.

Demon Records, who continue to highlight and celebrate a host of eras and music on vinyl of late, offer Yesterday Today 1999 to 2003 as a look back to those albums you may have missed, and there’s definitely good songs amongst the collection and if you’re a fan, then it’s also a perfect collection to get that extended discography on the shelf.  

One From The Modern

After the upbeat beast of Marchin’ Already, 1999’s One From The Modern sees the boys calm it down a bit, and the result is a languid album that drifts along nicely, but doesn’t truly make that big of an impact, in a music sense. Mostly, it feels like a ‘finding themselves’ era with reflective situations, and while there definitely isn’t anything offensive here, it doesn’t really make an impression as a whole package. There is the excellent opener Profit in Peace, which hops along agreeably, and No-One at All, which favourably contains the iconic Paul Weller. The track 7 July also lifts the spirits a notch before we fall back into easy-coasting tunes that linger in the air but float off easily.

Mechanical Wonder

2001’s Mechanical Wonder might have the worst original artwork from the three, resembling the adverts part of the anti-copyright infringement DVD campaign from the early 2000s, but it’s also the strongest album. There’s a touch of The Zutons lingering in tracks like Up On The Downside but the songs also sound fuller, coming across with a restored depth and far more harmoniously rich – especially evident in the opening four tracks. Songs like Biggest Thing retain the mellow vibe, you can get some Sunday lounging in with Give Me A Letter, and the title track itself is a fine escape and only goes to conclude that this is a good album, with the band clearly feeling revved up and revived.

North Atlantic Drift

North Atlantic Drift takes us up to 2003, with OCS diving back into the world of Hundred Mile High City and The Riverboat Song, with I Just Need Myself kicking off proceedings, and who doesn’t like a banger as a big album opener? Like the previous album, the title track has a fine melody, and is lyrically far more intriguing than other tracks, and basic lyrics can be distracting from time to time. While there’s a common theme of either important social or political leanings, that can be dowsed and downed by simplicity, which doesn’t necessarily stand out for the right reasons.

However, there are other standout tracks on North Atlantic Drift which includes Make That Deal, and another Zutons-blues-indie return with On My Way, and then there’s the impressive Second Hand Car, which feels like a distant story-cousin to Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car, with an additional domestic reality residing within a welcome melody told via a sad story. Overall? This is all very dependable.

Ocean Colour Scene: Yesterday Today 1999 – 2003 (Signed Edition) is out now:


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