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Julie Ocean
Long Gone And Nearly There
Transit Of Venus Music
www.transitofvenusmusic.com


Ah, summer - the perfect time for pristine power pop. I drag myself away from my current twin obsessions - a major Who kick from getting the ace live collection View From A Backstage Pass, and the fantastic new Hold Steady album (reviews of these to come shortly) - to pop this one into the car CD player and blast down the highway with my thinning hair streaming in the wind (oops, there goes the toupee ...)

Julie Ocean is a pretty new DC outfit. Singer / guitarist Terry Banks was in a string of cult jangle-pop acts such as the Saturday People and Glo-Worm, while his counterpart Jim Spellman was previously in Velocity Girl, who lots of you will probably remember fondly for their three mid-90s "bubblegrunge" albums (including the great Copacetic). Following on from the good-taste decision to name that group after an early Primal Scream tune, Julie Ocean's namesake is a song from even further back, on the Undertones' third album Positive Touch.

Despite what you might think from that, Long Gone... doesn't sound particularly like Julie Ocean's ancestors, or the Undertones for that matter; this band takes a more timeless approach that sometimes leaves you wondering - in a very good way - what decade you're in. The record boasts 10 songs in not a lot more than 25 minutes, and what charmers they all are. Using the classic two guitars/bass/drums lineup, every song abounds with chiming guitars, bright melodies and exhilarating "woo woo" backing vocals. You can tell that these guys have been around for a while and truly understand that although a great pop song should be short enough to leave you wanting more, there's no harm in stuffing in as many toothsome hooks, clever production tricks and neat lyrical twists as you can.

Special credit goes to the perfect production by ex-Edsel member Geoff Sanoff - he has a pretty amazing production/engineering pedigree by now, including such alterna-pop gods as Luna and Nada Surf (and, um, Triumph The Comic Dog), and he really brings out the best in the songs here without burying them in a lot of pointless producer stunts.

If you like Grand Prix-era Teenage Fanclub, Posies, Matthew Sweet, or pretty much any of the bands on the great Poptopia! collections from Rhino Records, Julie Ocean will be right up your street. Like the record label's website says, just because a CD can hold 80 minutes of music doesn't mean that it should - I challenge you not to flip this one right back to the beginning as soon as you've played it once.

-Gareth Bowles

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