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The Ocean Blue

If you yearn for the gentle, jangly, occasionally synthy sounds of modern rock radio circa 1990 -- when you could tune in to hear such melodic fare as World Party, The Lightning Seeds, Aztec Camera, and The Wedding Present -- well, put those cravings to rest with a generous helping of The Ocean Blue. If you were listening back then, I'm sure you remember their name and perhaps even a few of their songs; they surfaced in the late '80s sporting a deliciously poignant, guitar-pop sound marked by singer David Schelzel's penchant for heavy, charmingly self-conscious poetry, and have been writing songs and recording albums in that vein ever since.

When they started, they were just like you or me -- well, me anyway -- school kids who listened to a lot of The Smiths and Echo and the Bunnymen. But before they'd even graduated from high school, the Pennsylvania quartet was signed to Sire Records. Soon after, they had a smash debut album and singles in rotation on the very same radio stations they'd been listening to. A decade later, after a couple of lineup changes and five albums, they're still around, older and perhaps a little wiser, but with the same great pop instincts, sense of upbeat melancholy, and delightfully glittery textures.

Some things have changed. In 1996, after See the Ocean Blue, the group was dropped by its second major (they had moved to Mercury from Sire), and their future was temporarily unclear. But in 1999, they recorded their fifth record, Davy Jones' Locker, and sold it through their website until it was picked up by March Records. The sound is as sweet, lush, and dreamy as ever. From that album, "Garden Song," with its jangly sincerity, sounds like late New Order. "Denmark" has some of that too, but with its drum machine and rich synths, sounds slightly older. The Ocean Blue is as catchy as ever, deeply nostalgic without feeling dated.