When I first heard Moseley Shoals, Ocean Colour Scene’s last American release, I was amazed that a band from Manchester (home of The Smiths) could play with such soul. It’s what talented, late-’60s, Motown-loving Brit-rockers would have sounded like in 1995, sticking in your head for days.
This is what I expected from Mechanical Wonder, and I got it. This album goes from soft and pretty to energetic and… pretty. It has lots of bright guitars and mod organs playing catchy hooks.
But as good as this album sounds, it’s often impossible to tell what Steve Cradock is singing about. It’s not lyrical depth, word slurring or his accent; his lyrics just suck. If I sang, “You’re the biggest thing/ That I see” to a date, I’d probably finish the night alone. He’s not this bad all the time, just in his attempts at sweetness.
Sometimes, though, the vocals can be so monotonous and repetitive that I get too annoyed to enjoy the music. The title track and “In My Field” are the most irritating. They’re pub songs that aren’t witty, naughty or tuneful.
For the most part, Ocean Colour Scene writes, arranges and plays good rock songs. Nothing here is quite as groovy as Moseley Shoals’ “The Riverboat Song” though. Start there.