THE OCEAN PARTY
Several decades ago the tres-avant avant-garde/weirdos from San Francisco, The Residents, came up with a brilliant wheeze. They would buy advertising space on local radio – who wouldn’t be caught dead or alive playing the strange distortions of pop the secretive group made - to promote themselves and to get their songs heard, one minute at a time.
But these ads weren’t just ads, they were whole songs, from The Commercial Album, a 40-minute collection of one-minute songs which were simultaneously exactly what made The Residents very, very odd but also snappy, even pop-py, bursts of material which could be consumed and enjoyed before you even knew you were doing so.
Prolific as they are (they’ve averaged more than a record a year in half a dozen years of existence, probably as a way of giving space to all six songwriters), The Ocean Party are not even a tenth as weird as The Residents. They make pop music, they don’t hide their faces behind giant eyeballs, they don’t deconstruct Beatles and James Brown songs, or write concept albums about moles. And they are from Wagga, which is not quite SF.
However, they have taken a diversion from recording their next album with a 12-song/12-minute lark that allows them to be 12 different bands who can get in and out of your consciousness almost before you know they’ve been there.
Here’s a dreamy surf band, a synth pop band, a party hearty band, a lost in the weeds singer/songwriter type, a slurry country pick-up group, a jumpy New Wave-ish group, a lo-fi industrial collective, a full-bore indie rock band, a slacker set-up, wine-country country-rockers, a second-generation Machine Translations. And more.
There should definitely be marks for discipline, or editing: every song clocks in at exactly one minute. There should also be marks for variety, obviously. And naturally, if you have the attention span of a former Federal agriculture minister, there’s marks for keeping things changing.
But most usefully, IBO has the effect of a rapid flicking through the channels and having your ears tickled with neatly framed bursts of pleasure, without the attendant frustration of finding someone talking breakfast banter shit, asking for donations or playing The Rubens. (Though let’s be fair, this flicking would be like going from triple j to Double J to RRR to SER to ZZZ - which isn’t exactly the widest spectrum ever.)
And at the end you might have cause to play more Ocean Party, which won’t hurt you at all. The Commercial Album II? Why not?