The Ocean Blue: Kings and Queens / Knaves and Thieves
The Ocean Blue is a band originally from my hometown of Hershey, PA. They just released a new record, Kings and Queens / Knaves and Thieves, their eighth, but their first in six years.
I first heard about The Ocean Blue in the early ’90s, probably because they were one of the bigger bands to come out of central Pennsylvania (the other being Live). My introduction to their work was 1991’s Cerulean, which remains my favorite of their records to this day. 1996’s See The Ocean Blue is probably my second-favorite. I played in a band while in college in Tucson with some Ocean Blue enthusiasts and we obsessed over what, at three years since their previous release, seemed like a welcome break from a long wait for new Ocean Blue music.
But Kings and Queens holds up rather nicely amongst their catalog. In fact, it is both the consistency and the timelessness of The Ocean Blue’s music that impresses me. There are songs on this latest 2019 release that would fit seamlessly on their 1989 debut.
Track 2, It Takes So Long, is a quintessential The Ocean Blue tune. It would fit on any of their records. The upbeat open chords on the acoustic and the vocal melody and the crazy hook of the chorus are all the reasons I listen to this band. The electric guitar tones are the same as ever, clean and chorusey.
Track 3, Love Doesn’t Make it Easy on Us, is a more downtempo tune that laments how difficult love is over the long-haul (a theme amongst us 40-50-something musicians, like Salim’s Tucumcari or the only tune I have in the works right now).
Track 4, All the Way Blue, could easily be confused for a tune from the ’80s. And that’s the trick here, I think. It’s like the ’80s but timeless and with better production values.
The rest of the record weaves here and there but never too far. There are some Latin-influenced tracks. There is the amazingly-titled Therein Lies the Problem with My Life, which in lyrics and music betrays the heavy Smiths influence that’s always been at work here.
I like a band with longevity despite never having had real commercial success. If you’re intrigued and want to learn more, check out this NPR piece from June 16th: