Since we’ve got the Ocean Blue on the brain, we should probably take a look at the band most commonly associated with them to the point of being an almost slavish imitation. Drawing from the same influential well of Echo & the Bunnymen, the Smiths and the Railway Children, comparisons to the Blue were inevitable — throw in the fact that One was produced by then-recently exiled Ocean Blue keyboardist Steve Lau, and the point is almost indisputable.
A cursory listen to single “Waterfall” (download) reveals all the tricks in Riverside’s bag — the chiming guitars, shimmery production and oblique lyrics that bring to mind a certain Hershey, PA band. Lead singer Keith Kochan’s voice, however, is a little on the thin side, his limited range keeping the melodies throughout the album a little too similar. “Waterfall” did attract MTV’s attention, though, and got quite a few 120 Minutes spins. It didn’t hurt that Riverside’s members looked like they stepped right out of a Guess Jeans commercial:
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It’s tempting to say now that you’ve heard “Waterfall,” you’ve pretty much heard the rest of One, since there’s not a lot of variety to be found. Second single “Cinnamon Eyes” tries to break the sameness of the album by adding some more exotic percussion, which was nice:
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While it sounds like I’m being pretty tough on Riverside, I must admit that One is a pleasing album to put on and relax to. The entire proceeding is quite pretty, especially “Mansfield Park” (download) and “James.” (download) Unfortunately, “pretty” jangle-pop was seriously out of favor in a grunge-obsessed 1992, and Lau’s involvement may have contributed to further ill will with his former band mates in the Ocean Blue — when I spoke with David Schelzel in 1993, he bristled when I brought up One. His eyeroll spoke volumes. His attitude must have softened in the years since, since both bands toured together as recently as 2004.
As for Riverside, their second album, Taste, was rejected by their label (Sire, surprise!), and eventually released via the band’s website. They continue to play dates sporadically, most recently last year in their hometown of Philadelphia.
“Waterfall” peaked at #26 on the Modern Rock Tracks Chart in 1992.
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