OCS: 3 & 4 (Songs About Death and Dying/Get Stoned)

[26 July 2005]

By Jason MacNeil

There is something about a double-disc set that causes there to be no middle ground. Double-disc sets are either much too long or by an artist who at times is over-achieving to get enough quality material for an EP, let alone a full-length album. So for OCS to get 28 tunes that make the grade is noteworthy. Fortunately, they seem to have approached it song by song, not planning some grandiose, epic concept album but instead letting the listener ease into the record. Dubbed 3, the first disc opens with a lo-fi sound on “If I Had a Reason” and rarely veers from it. That song is a nice and quaint toe-tapper, with the vocals coming off as if they’ve been sung under a toilet and through a tin can. It’s a good start that is minimal, sparse and pretty when done right. Think of PJ Harvey, if she was banging the drums and taking the lead from Jack White, and it might sound close to this. “Second Date” possesses a darker, dreary Cat Power-meets-Velvet Undergound vibe, as the stilted drums leave their mark.

As the album settles down and begins to open up, OCS tends to experiment a bit more with arrangements and the usage of sounds, particularly on the effects-heavy “The Pool”, which could create images of Jeff Tweedy scoring a Hitchcock film—eerie and with a child-like innocence, as the vocals are buried beneath spacey sounds and birds chirping. “Burning Beauties” has a military tempo and a folksy, singer-songwriter coffeehouse feel… that is, if Lou Reed and Andy Warhol were the landlords. However, there are several ear-candy nuggets, such as the warm, troubadour-ish “Here I Come”, which sounds as if OCS has channeled Simon and Garfunkel, despite the hacking and wheezing at the song’s conclusion. OCS are all over the lo-fi map, a map that might seem small but which they get a lot of mileage from, judging by the rudimentary and catchy “Greedy Happens” that chugs along thanks to a good backbeat and some ample blues guitar picking.

The first album has some odd tracks that should be pleasing. They’re not though; in fact they’re unfinished clunkers like “Bicycle”, which sounds as if the chain broke just before the wheels fell off. “Split the Take” tends to fall into a similar pattern, but is saved from disaster with some electronic textures. OCS hit pay dirt again to a certain extent with the light and whispered “Oh No Bloody Nose”, a possible nursery rhyme whose lyrics are made on the fly. And the nursery rhyme would be about a drug overdose, or so it appears. “I Am Slow” rounds out Disc One, or 3, with much the same feel as it came armed with from the onset.

Disc Two, or 4, is 14 songs clocking in at approximately a half-hour. So you get more of the same, beginning with the train rolling groove of “Wait All Night”, with the guitars battling the drum-brushing in the background. OCS keeps the momentum (if dreary lo-fi rock can have any semblance of momentum) with the honky-tonk tinted “Tower & the Wall”, which would waltz eternally if need be. However, like many double-disc albums, this is usually the point when the songs tend to meld into one another without any real distinction. OCS does their best to avoid this with the almost happy or up-tempo “Friends of St. Thomas”, the inviting neo-hoe-down that is “Cookie Destroyer”, and the Neil Young-ish “Crime on My Mind”.

Yet the longer it continues, the more it gets to tracks that leave you a bit perplexed, including “Get Thy Bearings”. It’s an apt title for it, as it seems to just have no real sense of purpose or direction. And don’t get me started on “Head 2”, a song that makes “Get Thy Bearings” sound legendary—disconcerting and going downward quickly. On the whole though, OCS has made the most out of a very sparse collection of music. Perhaps you won’t have to get stoned to enjoy the first disc, but the second one, well….

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/ocs-34/