Please stay awake
I’m a daft enough Manics fan to have bought a bottle of Ocean Spray the moment I saw it when I first visited UK. Not worthy enough to write a song about it, to be honest.
Of course, Ocean Spray is not really about the drink itself directly, but about James’ mother’s battle with cancer: apparently she drank a lot of cranberry juice, said to have healthy/healing effects, while she was bedridden. As such, it’s a terribly sad song. This didn’t stop the manufacturers of Ocean Spray wanting to use it in their advertisements – the band quickly said no.
The most notable thing in Ocean Spray is that it’s the first released Manics track that hosts James’ lyrics. He’s a surprisingly good lyricist you know? This and the material he wrote for his solo album state that he should write more lyrics for the band, especially when Nicky’s feeling uninspired. It’s a pretty simple piece of lyrics, a tad clichéy at points but not bothersomely so, but it’s got a big heart to it. Sadness in simplicity.
Musically it’s very much a Know Your Enemy track, enough so to even consider it as an excellent nutshelling of the diverse album in one song. Mainly acoustic backing, fuzzy sound, ramshackle rocker, crashes into noise periodically. That wonderful Know Your Enemy sound. Then Sean’s trombone kicks in instead of the traditional guitar solo – not only does it sound far more classier and heartbreakingly beautiful than the traditional guitar solo (as shown in live performances where James tends to guitar the solo), but at the same time acts as a family tribute. Sean and James are cousins after all and therefore it was his family member who passed away as well.
It’s also the only Know Your Enemy song that can be considered a live regular these days.
There’s several remixes of this one. The best of the bunch is the Kinobe remix that turns the song into a hauntingly hypnotic, dreamy float. Eery and lovely. The Ellis Island Sound remix bears very little resemblance to the original song but otherwise is another calm and cool remix, somewhat more vibrant than the Kinobe one. The Medicine remix on the other hand is a messy, shambly dance remix that’s best forgotten.
The video is oddly striking. It’s very uneventful: Sean bangs drums, Nicky reads a newspaper and rejoices about winning a table football match he played against himself and James mopes in a bathroom. The band’s longtime friend and somewhat ‘official’ photographer Mitch Ikeda makes a cameo. It’s really quite boring when you think of it but at the same time there’s a dreadfully strong melancholy to it. Everyone seems completely disregarding of the world and apathetic, except James who occasionally looks completely crushed. It would be a lie to say that it’s a brilliant video but it’s got some genuine off-beat blues to it. Fitting with the song.
Lots of sleeve quotes for this one. “As long as you know I am waiting, take your time flowers of the spring” as said by Yukio Mishima governed CD1 of the single, “Ever tried – ever failed – no matter – try again – fail again. Fail better” from Samuel Beckett was on CD2 instead. The cassette single had the Emily Dickinson quotation “But like chaos – stopless – cool – without a chance or spar or even a report of land to justify despair”.
Trivia time: the Japanese at the start of the track is spoken by the aforementioned Mitch Ikeda and translates as “you have such beautiful eyes”.