“Julie Ocean”, the Undertones song from which this this DC-based band takes its name, is an almost spectrally sensitive song, singer Feargal Sharkey’s whispery tenor trembling over a subdued jangle of guitars. (There’s a sublime, shirtless version of it here. It’s not from the Undertones’ Ramones-influenced, spiky punk-pop “Teen Age Kicks” era, but from their baroque pop stretch, so you might think that Long Gone and Nearly There would be a fragile, carefully orchestrated kind of record. You’d be wrong, actually, but then these guys have been misleading people that way for a while. Velocity Girl (for whom Julie Ocean guitarist Jim Spellman played drums) was named after a Primal Scream song, but try to find a hint of Primal Scream’s hard-pulsing drone in Velocity Girl. Can’t be done.
Still, any band named for an Undertones song, even a song on the less raucous, more sensitive third album Positive Touch, can hardly avoid power pop. The chiming guitars, the harmonized choruses, the double-claps, and the fractious calls and responses are practically built into Julie Ocean’s DNA. And, no question, these are very good power pop songs, short and punchy and dizzyingly sweet.
Yet Julie Ocean knows that in all quality power pop, from the Flaming Groovies on down, you have to balance the scales. You need enough twists and regret to keep songs from turning sappy. If one guitarist spins out achingly pretty jangle-pop licks, the other has to crash through the power chords, as on album highlight “#1 Song.” If the melody is almost too ’60s-pop catchy, as “Here Comes Danny”‘s is, you have to break it up with big drums and a silly call and response, with the second vocals demanding “Put the needle on the record” in answer to almost everything.
Drums are a make or break element of songs like these, and Julie Ocean is lucky to have Alex Daniels pushing from behind. Daniels has done time in hard-case bands like Swiz and Severin. His tumultuous beats ratchet up the tension in otherwise daydream-y pop nuggets like “Ten Lonely Words”, “Ebb & Flow” and “Looking at Me/Looking at You.”
Long Gone and Nearly There is really nothing but good clean guitar pop, well-done and not obviously derivative. It’s a beach party, top down in the convertible, porch stoop on sunny evenings kind of record, not a lasting monument, but nothing to feel guilty about either.Jen Kelly/DustedMagazine.com 6/3
I seem to go out of my way annually to crown a power-pop champion for the year. Someone whose subversion or reverential recreation of the genre is so willfully brilliant and fun that I have to listen to the record over and over. In 2006 it was Devin Davis, last year it was Georgie James, in 2008 it’s Julie Ocean.
But despite this being a debut album, the people involved aren’t surprising. With a pedigree that includes members of Velocity Girl, the High-Back Chairs and the Saturday People, Julie Ocean is one more cog in an incestuous indie-rock machination of bands that have made a living out of co-opting and vividly and uniquely recreating some seriously classic rock and roll tropes: surf music, harmonies, three-minutes and less running time, jangly and crisp guitars. Long Gone and Nearly There follows in the best tradition of albums like The Ramones and, in more recent times, Is This It, hitting with force, quickly and succinctly, leaving the listener ready to hit play again at the end. The album blitzes by – 10 songs in 25 minutes – without a wasted note.
The first four songs roll by at an amazing clip – “#1 Song” and “My Revenge” being the two standouts. The former even contains a lick of guitar that immediately recalls a faster version of Matthew Sweet’s “I’ve Been Waiting.” The latter is possibly the record’s most perfectly condensed moment: background harmonies, shimmering guitars, a glorious chorus, a pace that never slackens from note one. It even follows that grand tradition of juxtaposing ridiculously up-tempo music with somewhat bitter lyrics. “Just a little bit of sugar,” as Julie Andrews sang.
The proof of Long Gone’s brilliance lays in track five – the one song on the album that really stretches out. A little over five minutes long, it’s the type of song that normally drags a record like this down. In the midsts of brilliant, short, punchy gems comes the long form song. But “Here Comes Danny” defies expectations – it’s the epitome of the other tracks’ perfection extended out to five minutes. I had to double check the time when I began writing this. “Here Comes Danny” has been one of my favorite tracks on this album since I first listened to it, but I was honestly shocked to find out how long it is. It doesn’t feel anywhere close to that – with its guitar solo and megaphone-shouted background chorus, it’s completely engaging. A record full of songs like this would begin to wear on listeners, but placed within the shorter pieces, it only reinforces just how sharp Julie Ocean is.
The back half of the album soars as well. “Bright Idea” hums along at punk speed with its “ahhhh” undergirding. The other true standout, “There’s a Place (In the Back of My Mind),” sounds like a lost Buddy Holly track, and this is the one misstep in the album. This song should have been the final song on the record. Instead, the album ends on the breakneck “Looking at Me/Looking at You,” a fine song in its own right, but it leaves the album more open ended. This is a quibble over sequencing, which isn’t a major complaint at all, but I feel like ending the album on the former track would’ve even further pushed listeners to want to hit the play button again immediately upon its finish.
Long Gone and Nearly There arrives just in time for summer and to truly throw down the gauntlet for power-pop in 2008. If you’re going to step to this album, you’ve got some mighty large and catchy shoes to fill. – j. neas/AquariumDrunkard.com 6/2
Jim Spellman likes his allusions: his former band, the charming Velocity Girl, took its name from an early Primal Scream song. “Julie Ocean” was a great new-wave pop single from Ireland’s Undertones, which tips to one of the musical roots of this DC band.
Released on local label Transit of Venus, Long Gone and Nearly There is a terse (10 songs in 25 minutes) blast of nostalgia for the jangly, melodic guitar pop of the Eighties, from early decade new wave to mid-decade Brit Pop to later lo-fi underground America, from those Undertones to the Wedding Present to Guided by Voices.
Although it might help, one doesn’t have to be history-minded to love the ecstatic harmonies of “#1 Song,” the power-pop hooks of “Here Comes Danny,” and the zippy guitar riffs of “At the Appointed Hour.” – Steve Klinge/Philadelphia Inquirer 5/26
We could tell you that this foursome is led by early ’90s D.C. indie-pop sovereigns, guitarist/singers Jim Spellman (High Back Chairs, Velocity Girl) and our own Terry Banks (St. Christopher, Tree Fort Angst, Saturday People, Glo-Worm with Pam Berry of Shins-song fame). We could note they took their name from a 1981 U.K. #41 UndertonesPositive Touch hit. A mag is supposed to give info and context-especially about its own writers. But what this sounds like is a gang of college-age kids on espresso! 10 songs in 25 minutes-four of them shorter than two minutes-are sleeve clues to this breathless up-tempo thick guitar pop. But it doesn’t tell you it’s also cleanly recorded, loud, brash, and endlessly sugar-melodic. Long Gone hasn’t time to wallow in salad days nostalgia; it drags a lost art form to the present, shot full of Brit greats like TV21 (especially!!!) and similar primo 1980 work by the So Far Away Chords, Setting Sons Jam, “What Do You Know” Buzzcocks, and yes Hypnotized Undertones. (Not Positive Touch!) Add in thicker C86 bands like Razorcuts, Wedding Present, and Primitives, and you have the best record of this type since The Rifles No Love Lost (think “Local Boy”). This crackin’ pop jumps out of speakers with verve, confidence, and tunes a plenty; just for the superb “Complications” (track 7!?!)), Long Gone is the bomb, and there’s nine more backing it up. Talk about short but sweet: get in, do you business, get out. and rock! Jack Rabid/Big Takeover #62
Catchy, poppy, and full of hooks. Julie Ocean’s Long Gone and Nearly Three is a pleasant mix of popular song writing mixed with a punk charm. Recorded in Virginia and New York City the LP squashes ten songs into 25 minutes. This is along the same lines as the Old 97’s, or the Buzzcocks hammering out quick tunes. If you were into the latter, then Julie Ocean would also be a good fit.
The record has a splash of gimmicks with, “#1 Song,” a tale pondering the possibilities of cashing in on hit single, and while remaining lyrically intellectual. It arrives just in time for the summer season. Weekday drives along the beach, early evening barbeques, and midnight hookups. The Miles Davis might be saved for the late evening, but this Julie Ocean record will do for the partying before the lip locking.
The album kicks off with “Ten Lonely Words,” which showcases Jim Spellman’s melody driven vocals straight out of the gate. The track clocks in less than two minutes. The first half of the recording follows suit, before opening up with “Here Comes Danny.” Beatles influenced traits are evident in “There’s A Place,” before closing with “Looking At Me/Looking At You.”
Martin Halo/DownTownMoneyWaster.com 5/22
. Velocity Girl drummer Jim Spellman’s new band, Julie Ocean, is set to drop its debut album, Long Gone and Nearly There, on May 27. The band’s name, which comes from a song title by the Undertones, is a hint to its contents. Anyone enamored of classic late-’70s power pop a la 20/20, the Shoes, et al, should have their hearts lifted by Julie Ocean’s fizzy pop hooks and sharp, concise (10 songs in 25 minutes–take that, Ramones!) songcraft. Those who follow the release schedules of labels like Parasol and Not Lame religiously should prepare themselves for the power-pop album of the year. “But will they tour?” we hear you cry. Fingers crossed, friends…Jim Allen/Prefixmag.com 5/18
Local jangle popsters celebrate the release of their cheery, honey-harmonizing album “Long Gone and Nearly There” Jonathan Takiff/Philadelphia Daily News 5/9