Ask & you shall receive the new Ocean Grove.
One thing I will always appreciate about Ocean Grove is how they present what’s coming under the hood in terms of updates and new releases. The latest example of this is how they recently used a Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater-esque character select video to tease and subsequently reveal their newest member, bassist Twiggy Hunter, with Dale Tanner becoming full-time frontman since vocalist Luke Holmes departed following Unify Gathering 2019. And as cool of an idea as that THPS video is, we’re not here to talk about that. No, we’re hear to chat about their latest single, the wildly different ‘Ask For The Anthem‘.
First off, the song’s lyrical theme seemingly centres around the invigoration and “salvation” that comes from loving music. Lyrics of “If I forget how. If I forget how/Put that song on, show you what it is now.” are about finding realignment through the music that one connects with. Showing that even Ocean Grove can lose their way sometimes and require honest music (and the community that’s bred from a love for such art) to help pull their heads back in and focus on what’s real. With the accompanying psychedelic, corporate-inditing film clip revealing the song’s underlining critique of shallow “anthems” solely created to be mind-numbing sounds filling out clubs and venues with little substance; asking listeners to push past all of that shit. That’s just my takeaway, though.
Considering this is a new era for the Melbourne act, there’s actually a couple references to be had here too. For one, the line “My Thunderdome, come as you are” acts as a double-whammy; referring to one of the best songs from 2017’s ‘The Rhapsody Tapes‘, as well as the third track from Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind‘. There’s also a Skinny Six nod come the end of this latest Odd World visual affair, seeing the quartet speeding past their ol’ painted black pal Running Touch, a visual metaphor for them moving forward and not looking back. For better or for worse.
But let’s talk about the actual track! With funky, rattling drum loops from Sam Bassal and with poppin’, twistin’ bass lines showing off what Twiggy can do, ‘Ask For The Anthem‘ is a pretty big change-up for the group. No screams, no heavier riffs, no breakdowns – this sure ain’t your papa’s OG. No, this is a new Ocean Grove. With the song and aesthetic of the Thomas Elliot-directed music video brought together, there’s plenty of 2000’s alternative and pop vibes occurring. Pulling largely from that decade rather than the 90s as past OG material so often did; what with it’s No Doubt feel, that Scissor Sisters look, and the Britney Spears undertones in having brief female vocals slip in following each chorus. And the choruses that Dale leads are by far my favourite part of the whole thing. But while it’s a pretty groovy song, that’s only going to take you so far.
Because honestly, I’m not really about this. Hell, while I wasn’t crazy about ‘Glass Gloss‘ either, that was better than this. (Now the final taste of old OG, it seems). The most striking thing about this new track is that it reveals just how much character Luke brought to the band’s table. How his own vocals – regardless whether he was screaming and no matter the effects being used on his voice – created such an interesting dynamic when paired with Dale’s vocals. Dale’s lower-pitched parts in the verses, even with those hooky whispered lines and his fuller register taking off during the chorus, just aren’t as enthralling here by themselves. He’s still a solid singer, but I feel like he really needs someone else to play off of.
Ocean Grove have proved before that they can do loud and heavy well-enough, so it’s fair enough for them to try new things. That’s still, in some way, exciting. Yet they’ve also shown that they can do weird and different just as well. As mentioned, this newbie doesn’t have those heavier elements, and that’s fine in theory. Except ‘Ask For The Anthem‘ doesn’t really make up for it in the other areas. It lacks some of the energy and flow that made Ocean Grove so exciting to so many people. It’s yet another change for the Melbourne act, and while it’s cool to see them always doing something different, this one does nothing for me.
That being said, it’s amusing to see the responses to ‘Ask For The Anthem‘ from both sides. Some listeners are utterly shitting the bed that Ocean Grove have changed again. An Aussie band well-known for changing shit up on each new release just changed things up again? Colour me shocked! (Sarcasm). But then there’s also how people are defending this new single by telling any and all naysayers to “go back to Slayer, nerd” (an actual reply I saw) and pondering out-loud if the “nu-metalcore/djent crowd will still like them now?“. ‘Djent’ does not accurately describe OG – past or present. The fuck are these people smoking?
Anyway, as mentioned, this change isn’t all that surprising. Given their popular trajectory of late, going in a more rock-driven, festival-sized sound was to be expected. People close to the band have also been telling me that’s where they were heading anyway, so this wasn’t some crazy curve-ball for yours truly. However, this one song doesn’t mean that they’re “selling out” or some such close-minded bollocks. After all, one of the biggest songs from their debut LP was the grungier, Silverchair-aping ‘The Wrong Way‘, with later track ‘Mr. Centipede‘ taking those sounds and moods even further. Both have become big sticking points for the band, so it’s not a stretch to see them pushing further into that direction with ‘Ask For The Anthem‘.
On one hand, I’ll be eagerly waiting to see how this song gels better once placed into the wider context of the new LP the Melbourne band will no doubt be dropping later this year. But on the other hand, when ‘Intimate Alien‘ first landed in December 2016 – barely two months before ‘The Rhapsody Tapes‘ arrived – I had no such reservations about the track: I was about it from the get-go. Perhaps this is one of those songs that you just have to see live to “get”? Either way, who bloody knows how this new album will go! Guess we’ll find out in due time.
Ask for the anthem below if ya want it:
HANDS LIKE HOUSES AUSTRALIAN TOUR FEATURING OCEAN GROVE, ENDLESS HEIGHTS, & REDHOOK:
Friday February 8 – UC Refectory, Canberra
Saturday February 9 – The Enmore, Sydney
Friday February 15 – The Tivoli, Brisbane
Saturday February 16 – The Forum, Melbourne
Friday February 22 – HQ, Adelaide
Saturday February 23 – The Astor, Perth