One Hundred Year Ocean – Where Were You While We Were Getting High?
Release Date: July 8, 2013
Record Label: Broken World Media
One Hundred Year Ocean is less of a side project than it is Derrick Shanholtzer’s personal passion. That much is obvious to anybody who follows his other band, The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die, on tumblr, where Shanholtzer has made a point of expressing his glee at finding any person who says they enjoy OHYO more than TWIABP, or even at at all. His newest EP under the One Hundred Year Ocean name, Where Were You While We Were Getting High?, is a short form excursion into Shanholtzer-Dvorak’s mind, one that’s often exhilarating despite its 11-minute runtime.
It’s initially jarring after the opening melancholy notes to not be greeted by David Bello, but met instead by Shanholtzer’s own husky voice, fraught with apathy and discontent. It’s not particularly tuneful or melodic, but it does come surprisingly close to making Shanholtzer-Dvorak out to be another Conor Oberst soundalike on “Soco Amaretto Bud Light Lime.” The pitched vocals on that track make it clear that their similarity is apparent mostly in the flat, near-speaking voice manner of singing that Oberst made so famous, and not a result of Shanholtzer-Dvorak trying to ape the songwriter. The comparison is never stronger than it is on "Lime," and it isn't even the moment where he sounds best; that award would go the last of the four tracks, "Magnetic Curses."
The EP runs enticingly close the sound that TWIABP have made their own, and it brings to mind the question of how much influence Shanholtzer-Dvorak holds in the studio that these songs often feel like angrier and shorter mirrors of TWIABP’s work. These songs are closest to “Fightboat” from Whenever, if Ever, with a pretty obvious pop-punk bent to them that the other band catapults into the atmosphere. This EP might be what many were looking for when they complained about the vocals found on the debut from TWIABP, though they do lose a lot of that bands expansive sound in return, as well as much of what comprised that bands well honed emotional resonance.
The focus on more traditional “punk” is still filtered through the same sorts of horns, synths, and guitars that you could find on a TWIABP release. But here, they’re used to serve Shanholtzer-Dvorak’s personal anguish, not that band’s longing for a home. He wails that “I hope there is a hell for you” and that “Us stupid shitty kids will die alone” on “Hospital Town,” and try as I might, there’s little recourse but to accept this at surface value petulance, the kind of thing I would dismiss out of hand without further consideration were it not being delivered by Shanholtzer-Dvorak. On “Apples,” he sings that “we drank each others piss out of white coffee cups/when it hits your lips it tastes just like warm water, what kind of disappointment is this?” and on the last few words he’s joined by a woman, presumably his wife and TWIABP bandmate Katie Lynne Shanholtzer-Dvorak. It’s certainly an unconventional consummation of their relationship, but it’s actually one of the lyrics that works best on the EP, as it takes childlike curiosity and exposes the darker, disturbed side of it and the way it can bond two people with shared tastes for what would stir revulsion in anybody else.
Katie joins Derrick again on final track “Magnetic Curses,” backing him up as he ruefully sings about the state of his person, and there’s an undeniable sincerity behind the apologies set to a compacted journey that would be twice it’s length on a TWIABP record. Those lyrics don’t exactly mesh with one another very well, and it makes for a slightly disjointed emotional response to the EP, leaving you unsure of exactly what to take away from Shanholtzer-Dvorak’s personality – much like some other, well publicized writing he’s done.
There’s a lot to discover on Where Were You While We Were Getting High?, much more than it’s Oasis-referencing title and tongue in cheek Brand New song name would lead one to believe. Shanholtzer-Dvorak isn't the most gifted lyricist in the world, but they’re certainly distinctly his own, and that’s ultimately what gives One Hundred Year Ocean it’s shape and distinction from TWIABP. For better or worse, this is his project, despite its obvious relationship with his other band. Deeply personal, One Hundred Year Ocean’s new EP is far from perfect, but remains a complex, contradictory, human listen – much like its creator.