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Review

Band captivates diverse audience

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September 17, 2010

I’ll admit it; I’m a sucker for gimmicks. Be it a holographic image on an album cover, or a see-through CD, I’ll fall for it right away. Open up the casing for “Couch Dictators”, the Ocean Band’s sophomore release, you’ll find a CD designed to look just like an old vinyl record. Needless to say, this peaked my interest, and yes, I fell for the gimmick.

Generally, I’m let down by my love for all things gimmicky, but the Ocean Band didn’t disappoint. The Ocean Band is a quintet from Singapore, whose sound is almost as diverse as the band themselves. Three of the five members, Yaniv Chen (vocalist and guitarist from Israel), Angshu Chattergee (guitarist from India) and Sammy Arvis (drummer and vocalist from France) met at Crazy Elephant Blues Bar, Singapore’s premier rock and blues club in 2004.

Soon enough, the trio became the house band at the Crazy Elephant, and from there, things started rolling. In 2005, The Ocean Band added two new members, pianist Uwe Vogel of Germany, and self described “weird mix of American and Singaporean” Dave D’aranjo on bass.

The quintet began touring in France and the Netherlands that year, and even though only one of the member is half Singaporean, the band was selected to represent the island nation in the “World Battle of the Bands” in 2006.

In addition to the band’s accolades in Singapore, the Ocean Band released their first album, “Barcodes” in 2005, and opened for the band Hoobastank on their tour to Hong Kong in 2006. “Couch Dictators” opens with the band’s message to the motherland: a 47 second recording of the noises and sounds of radio dial in Singapore. Its more or less The Ocean Band’s way of saying “we love you guys out in Singapore, but this is how we do things.” And how do they do things, you might ask? To put it simply: quite well.

The Ocean Band has a way of incorporating sounds and influences of each of their culturally diverse backgrounds into the standard pop rock formula. For example, some of the guitar licks in the song “Hyacinth” have a slight Eastern Asian sound to them, or a better example would be “Sixteen Cans,” which sounds like a cross between an Irish drinking tune and an old German Polka. One of my favorites is “Wheels,” a piece that feels so much like an old Rolling Stones tune, with a constant steady organ riff, backed up by solid drumming and guitar.

Another great track is “Eskimo Sun,” with very soulful guitar and vocals. All 22 tracks kept me interested, and each one showed off just a little bit of the talent of each of the members of The Ocean Band as well as their diverse pasts and bright futures.All in all, “Couch Dictators” is a solid album.

Although it seems that The Ocean Band hasn’t quite found that perfect sound yet, it works quite well for them: they excel in showing their individual talents, and exploring how their roots can influence their very unique sound, all while keeping it in a format that is popular and enjoyable to listen to.

I guess the gimmick worked on me. I would never have known about these five guys out in Singapore, had it not been for that faux vinyl. Maybe that’s why those advertising directors make the big bucks!

Jon Lyksett is a student at UW-River Falls.