Ocean Blue Oed Ronne (from left), Peter Anderson, Bobby Mittan and David Schelzel
Updated: November 27, 2013 5:23PM
After providing elegant counterpoint to the increasingly edgy alternative and grunge music gaining control of radio in the late ’80s and ’90s, the Ocean Blue took its sublime sound underground at the start of the new millennium. The group’s previous full-length album, “Davy Jones’ Locker,” celebrates its 14th birthday this year.
Released this March, “Ultramarine” hews closely to the quartet’s stripped-down, heavenly, chiming pop roots. That’s likely to make old fans very happy. The first ringing guitar chords of “Give it a Try” leave little doubt that David Schelzel is still feeling the vibe, and his assured baritone seals the deal. Someone’s torch still burns as brightly as ever for his Joy Division records.
Bobby Mitten’s reliable bass provides the pulse for the melancholy but hopeful “Sad Night, Where is Morning.” A bleary-eyed sparkle greets the gentle beginning of “New York 6AM,” before climaxing with the full light of day in The City.
The Ocean Blue last visited Chicago in January, reacquainting itself with local supporters at Schubas Tavern. The group played favorite album cuts like the deceptively upbeat cautionary tale “Vanity Fair” and dreamy “Ballerina Out of Control.” They also teased fans by previewing the lovestruck, reverb-drenched waltz of “Blow My Mind” from the then-unreleased “Ultramarine.” It was the sound of a band that hadn’t lost a step.
It’s true that “Sad Night, Where is Morning?” and “Blow My Mind” could have fit nicely on earlier albums including 1991’s “Cerulean” or even alongside “Between Something and Nothing” from the 1989 debut. But this does not seem like a band moving backward. It’s the sound of a band that has retained its passion for graceful melody and songcraft, refining its identity in a new era.
♦ The Ocean Blue, with Holly Henry and Forgotten Species, 9 p.m. Nov. 29, Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln Ave. Tickets $15-18 (ages 18+over), (773) 525-2501; lincolnhallchicago.com. SPOTIFY playlist: http://spoti.fi/I7AuVm