Ocean Alley – ‘Lonely Diamond’ review: psychedelic arena rock that doesn’t tip into indulgence

Call them confident: the Sydney six-piece go bigger and brighter on third album

Ocean Alley’s breakthrough album, 2018’s cool, calm and collected ‘Chiaroscuro’, was a jam-driven, psych-rock adventure that took Red Hot Chili Peppers’ ‘Californication’ to Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Full of funk and meandering exploration, the band had no expectations beyond their own enjoyment. They weren’t the only ones into it, though: The record landed them the hit song ‘Confidence’ and took the six-piece international with tours across North America and Europe.

From the opening moments of ‘Dahlia’, the moody sci-fi curtain rise of ‘Lonely Diamond’, it feels like Ocean Alley are a band reborn. That laser-focused first track, an epic in 118 seconds, swells from stuttered warning to bold action without uttering a word. Then, the band get busy blending the festival-ready rock of early Kings Of Leon with an otherworldly gaze, giving us the skipping funk of ‘Tombstone’. This time around, Ocean Alley know they’re playing to a crowd and it’s given their music a more outward view.

‘Way Down’ is an aching alt-rock anthem, hungry for the roar of an arena and at home strutting about the place, while the mellow reflection of ‘Infinity’ leans into the haze of Tame Impala before a squalling guitar solo snaps it back to attention. Elsewhere, the slow-burning ‘Up In There’ makes space for the vocals to shine between thundering drums and spacey production. The spirit-raising message of “you’ve been feeling kind of ordinary, but you should know you’re extraordinary,” sent from overseas, breaks the fourth wall to offer heartwarming encouragement.

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In every way, ‘Lonely Diamond’ is a bigger and more colourful beast. The chasing thrill of those instrumental breakdowns that made ‘Chiaroscuro’ such a buoyant listen are still wild and untamed on ‘Lonely Diamond’. The title track seems to be making it up as it goes along as it tries to unseat Baden Donegal’s vocals, ‘Puesta de Sol’ is a spaghetti western-influenced showdown where anything can happen next and the closing ‘Luna’ dials up the drama with swirling soundscapes.

Ocean Alley control the chaos, though. A lot of psychedelic rock records need a good editor, falling into the realms of self-indulgence, and ‘Lonely Diamond’ is precise in its attack. Unafraid of a huge chorus and knowing exactly when to explore new pastures, the 12 tracks fly by in a blitz of excitement. For all the dizzy exploration that this record undertakes, there’s a sharp focus throughout. The jagged piano start of ‘All Worn Out’ echoes Lionel Richie’s ‘Tender Heart’ before it’s overtaken by a restless spirit and an aching ’80s sax solo, while the curled-lip snarl of ‘Hot Chicken’ is reminiscent of the dirty rock ’n’ roll of Arctic Monkeys’ ‘AM’. “I know it’s dangerous, well honey, what can I say?” sings Donegal with a devil-may-care smirk.

With no time for half-measures and no desire to repeat what’s come before, ‘Lonely Diamond’ is ambitious, progressive but most importantly, fun. Refusing to take itself too seriously or get bogged down in the mire of odd time signatures, it’s a weird, wonderful record that’s full of surprises. Every twist has a dynamic purpose and the band are confident, but never cocky, as they dash between genres and aim for the stars. Sure, Ocean Alley have had a glimpse of touring the world and probably want to do it more, which is why this record is so open and immediate. But knowing the destination doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy the ride. ‘Lonely Diamond’ is a monster of a record that manages to inspire excitement at every one of its dizzying turns, so hold on tight.

Details

Ocean Alley Lonely Diamond

  • Release Date: June 19
  • Record Label: Unified Music Group

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