Mess & Noise, the highly respected underground music website, has been somewhat out of commission since mid last year. The Ocean Party, however, aren’t letting the site fade out of cultural consciousness. Lachlan, one of the group’s primary songwriters, says that 2015 is the first year the site’s respected critics poll has been absent since the Ocean Party started, and considering the stock they (and many others) put into those lists, a tribute of sorts was in order.
Their new eight track collection is made up of material that either didn’t make it onto Light Weight, or wasn’t considered up to snuff for their next record. This honestly makes me question their judgement, because Mess & Noise Critics Poll 2015 (yes, really) is a delight at times, and shows that if this is the stuff you’re ‘throwing away’, then you’re clearly from some sort of secretive society of prodigal songwriters with ridiculously high standards.
2015’s Light Weight, was bristling and bloodied – cracked skulls, black blood and dead men filled out its thirty eight minutes. It functioned as artistic endeavours often do – as a space in which the song writers (the Ocean Party has six) struggle and comprehend their lives and themselves, and Light Weight never shied away from uncomfortable realisations. Many of those frank sentiments have carried over into the material on Mess & Noise, with opener ‘Cool Boys’ wasting no time – “I put my hand through the wall/my heart just fell through the floor/my brains against the glass”. It remains clear as day that the Ocean Party harbours some of Melbourne’s prodigal songwriters, the riffs and melodies as sharp as ever.
On tracks like ‘Fight, Fight, Fight, Die’ the Ocean Party wears the discomfort of identity on its sleeve – asking simply “wrong body or wrong mind?” What’s identity though if you can’t even ascribe what you’ve done to who you are? ‘No Local’ has this boiling throughout it – “the best years of my life being no one/quarter of my life went by and I hardly noticed”.
Two instrumental tracks show up here too, but whether ‘Rivers’ and ‘Pleasure Ghost’ are actually instrumentals or just missing vocals is a question still hanging. The former errs into funk territory with a 80s pop soul guitar groove carried along by sharp drums.
It’s ‘Fun’ though, that is the best song of the group, carried through by its chorus. Fuzzed synths wash under a beautiful call of “I’m fading out again/just like I always have” – a melancholic mantra of missed moments and half remembered festivities that ought to find its home reaching out from scores of voices at Meredith. It’s a song built to sing; and the fact that it didn’t make it onto a formal release is mind boggling.
Mess & Noise has the same minor issue of almost no thematic coherence aside from varying forms of misery, much like Light Weight did, but it’s got some absolute gems on it. So here’s a toast to the Ocean Party’s B-sides, the things that the rest of us call A-sides.