There's something comforting about Ocean Rivals, a no-frills quartet that plays peppy, straight-ahead rock & roll without pretension or preening. There are no ponderous piano ballads to show sensitivity, no mournful fiddles or plaintive banjos to add rustic color, and no attempts to reinvent the two-guitar sound that has worked admirably and dependably across five decades of rock music. On the eight-song Summer's Dogs, Ocean Rivals rips through several strains of six-string-fueled fervor — some Southern rock, a little British invasion and the faintest traces of new wave all pop up — but folds all the styles into the band's easygoing swagger. Singer and guitarist Daniel Hecke inhabits these songs well without too much flash or bravado; he puts the right amount of strain on his pipes to sell the yearning in the bilingual "Isla de Amor" while retaining both jaunty energy and sober melancholy for the title track.
Hecke's lead vocals get co-billing with the aforementioned guitar action, and he and fellow guitarist Andrew Prinster work well together and stay within the lines of these cleanly drawn songs. Opening track "A Figurative Eight" coasts along on a chunky Southern blues riff before the guitars split off into harmonically aligned parallel lines. It ain't quite Thin Lizzy, but it serves the ambling track well. That song's comedown melts into the acoustic intro of "Our Ghosts," which adds a little tension with some minor-key acoustic strumming before settling back into a comfortable, familiar groove. For a band so in love with big guitar rock, the overblown elements of modern rock are perhaps inevitable — a showy solo and some distracting over-drumming detract from the otherwise sharp-cornered "Glasgow Coma Scale." But that's part of Ocean Rivals' charm and technique — a little excess and a little flash to recall the simple joys of uncomplicated rock music.
Want your CD to be considered for a review in this space? Send music c/o Riverfront Times, Attn: Homespun, 6358 Delmar Boulevard, Suite 200, St. Louis, Missouri, 63130. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.