[12 June 2008]
The following paragraph is a metaphor for the experience of listening to Long Gone and Nearly There, the debut album by D.C. power pop quartet Julie Ocean. It might also be an allegory that perfectly illustrates the happy tedium and benign disappointments of life. It might also make you want a snack.
You have a bag, and on this bag is written: ten assorted cookies. Nice! You reach inside the bag and pull out your first cookie. It’s a chocolate chip cookie. You snarf it down, and it tastes pretty good. You’ve had better chocolate chip cookies, but you’ve also had worse. The next cookie you withdraw is also a chocolate chip cookie—virtually indistinguishable from the last—which is enjoyable in the eating, as well. After four nearly identical chocolate chip cookies, your taste buds begin to fatigue from the sameness. You begin to wonder if every damn cookie in this supposed assortment of cookies is really just going to be another chocolate chip cookie. Finally, upon drawing out cookie number five, you are treated to an extra-large oatmeal raisin cookie. Excited, you practically inhale the sucker and plow on, only to find that the remaining five cookies consist of four more chocolate chip cookies and one peanut butter cookie. The bag now consumed, you feel mildly satisfied, and yet you still long for more, even though you’ve just had your fill of a treat you generally enjoy.
The chocolate chip cookies in this metaphor are buzzing blasts of guitar-saturated pop/rock tunes from former Velocity Girl guy Jim Spellman, now fronting a band (not a solo singer, nor an Undertones song) called Julie Ocean. The first of these, “Ten Lonely Words”, is the best. The extra-large oatmeal raisin cookie is the five-minute “Here Comes Danny”, a welcome permutation of the band’s usual recipe. Instead of plowing out of the verse and into the chorus with a steady stream of fuzz-toned eighth notes, they find a delectable, succinct, punchy riff that makes for the record’s biggest hook. Track nine, “There’s a Place in the Back of My Mind” (our peanut butter cookie in the batch), sounds like it was lifted straight off a British Invasion pop album circa 1964, including handclaps and falsetto “ahhh"s. These classic elements are an undercurrent throughout the album, and it’s fine that they don’t consistently stand at the fore. If they did, we’d merely have a different issue of sameness. Only the hardcore power pop fan will be able to distinguish the subtle differences between the majority of the songs on Long Gone and Nearly There. For the rest of us, it will make for a 25-minute sugar rush, and then we’ll move on.