I’m sure that entire college courses could be held on the naming of bands, and one of the chapters would have to be “Names that describe a band’s sound.” Bands such as the Clash, the Go! Team, Low, Metric and the Polyphonic Spree seem to have chosen names that fit their overall sound well. Enter Oceansize. This Manchester band sounds like nothing else from their hometown, that’s for sure, but their output is massive in depth and scope. Possibly taking their name from the Jane’s Addiction song, Oceansize can traverse the bombastic heights of the Perry Farrell fronted band and its contemporaries such as Alice in Chains and Tool, but they can also show their fan club badges for the space rock of Radiohead and the soaring majesty of Sigur Rós.
Oceansize haven’t been around all that long. They formed in 2000 and released their debut Effloresce in 2003 to decent reviews, but listening to their new album, Everyone Into Position, one would think that they were a band formed and mired in the ’90s. In opener “The Charm Offensive,” singer Mike Vennart sounds at times like a dead ringer for Chris Cornell. Guitars bend, grind and chunk with the best of them, but Oceansize adds something a little more: billowing atmosphere. Vennart’s voice isn’t just a scream box, although he can belt it, as he does in that opener, with anyone. There is a subtlety there not often found in bands of this ilk. Where some like Matt Bellamy and Tom Chaplin jumped off the more dramatic side of Thom Yorke’s style, Vennart usually takes the more delicate side, maintaining an even keel until he has to let loose. “Heaven Alive” sounds as if Layne Staley came back to life and Alice in Chains began recording again. Third track “A Homage to Shame” is the one I wish weren’t there. It’s the one spot on the otherwise interesting album that the band goes overboard with guitars akin to the awful American bands in vogue over the last five years like Evanescence.
They do quickly get back on track with “Meredith,” a song so reminiscent of Radiohead that it even ends with the computerized wind-down heard in “Karma Police.” I was waiting for “Fitter, Happier” to start. Instead I was even more pleasantly surprised by the fifth and best track on the album, “Music for a Nurse.” Oddly, and a testament to the band’s scope and range, the song is absolutely nothing like the previous songs. “Nurse” is slow, moody and atmospheric. No, there are no guitars played with a bow, but the song does somewhat resemble the epic sweeping grandiosity of Sigur Rós. From there on out you never really know what to expect. Oceansize could alternately blow the doors off your house or send you into a dreamy soundscape. All throughout, Vennart’s vocals match the scenery, from bombastic metal to faraway drones.
Effloresce didn’t make a huge impression on Americans upon release, and as it was not like the typical Manchester sound, it struggled in its home country as well. Everyone Into Position looks to change all that with a two-pronged attack. Some fans may prefer one style of their songs over the other, and frankly at times you can get a little tired of all the ’90s guitar overload, but it is in how effortlessly they maneuver between the two that makes this band and album so special.
Alice in Chains- Dirt
Radiohead- The Bends