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Reference listening: Mosley Shoals on a Sonneteer.

Moseley_ShoalsIt was a few years back on a beautiful sunny weekend in Guildford. Amongst 24 thousand people we, my partner Vicky and I ( pre-children), were enjoying the full three days of Guilfest, our local summer music festival. That year probably had one of the best line ups ever with the likes of Simple Minds, UB40, Blondie, The Stranglers (formerly known as the Guildford Stranglers of course) to name but a few, but not forgetting my favourite of the weekend, Ocean Colour Scene. As they made their introductions doing the hello Guildford stuff they yelled out,”We can tell we ‘re in Surrey. Everyone’s clean”. Welcome to the land of the great washed.  There then followed the perfect accompaniment to a sunny Surrey Summers’ afternoon. Which brings me to a journeyman album which has featured in the testing of just about every product I have ever designed or been involved in the design of; Mosley Shoals by Ocean Colour Scene. As with most of my references, this is truly an album that one can listen all the way through as opposed to a collection of songs with a couple of good ones amongst a host of dreary fillers.

The Riverboat Song is how I and many others were first introduced to this band of men and their instruments. Probably not the fairest of comparisons but to me it was like Jimi Hendrix on a roller-coaster. As a fan of the latter, to me this was just brilliant.There was energy, there was melody and as moreish to listen to as eating Humus and warm pita bread. As the crowd goes “oh oah la la, oh oah la la” we are well into (as Jimi Heard) The Day we caught The Train. This tune is signature ‘Colour Scene. “When you find that things are getting wild don’t you need days like these?”. Oh yes indeed as it fades into the third song, The Circle, which plays like a breeze through the leafing trees. Captivating guitar riffs and a bass-line that caries you along like the wind were your carriage carrying you effortlessly into the melancholy Lining your Pockets and laid back Fleeting Mind. Bones are tingling with every riff which tease as much as they deliver. A promise that is delivered at the end of every line.

Just before the halfway mark, the mood changes a little more than before. Suddenly we have hints of the Stones (Rolling kind), but as a band this is ever so much tighter than Keith, Mick and the gang ever could be, bless them. 40 Past Midnight, though, certainly has its hat tipped their way. One for the Road that follows invites us to “get up and dance”, but there is a lot of heart felt sorrow in this one as they “drink to the ones that are gone….I sing my sorrow” but what a song. Seven songs in and there is no way you could be bored. Even as the tempo slows down (just a little bit)with It’s My Shadow the listen-ability doesn’t stop. Guitars as has been the case so far carry both the melody and rhythm with ease.

Policemen and Pirates picks us right up only for Downstream to bring us into to true ballad mode “How does it feel when the world comes on so real and true?” (sounds like a good hifi system). Well You’ve got it bad changes all that and brings us right back to Roller-coaster territory and if the clues weren’t there already the final track Getaway really tells us they should have been children of the sixties. Well may be their parents were.

It may not be a Cheskyesque perfect recording and its certainly not the cleanest of productions in technical terms, but I imagine any of that would simply have ruined what is ultimately an extremely enjoyable shake of the speaker cones. For that very reason it is the essence of what I am looking for when testing our products in development. I expect every tingle and buzz in my bones to repeat or better itself. I want every emotion spilled over me and to anticipate every pluck and strum to crescendo. I don’t look for perfect high hats, if the essence of the performance is not there. This album allows me that. Oh and I love it.

Haider Bahrani is the Managing Director and co founder at Sonneteer.
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