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Review of O.A.R.’s “All Sides”

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Darby Shaw reviews that band “everyone’s heard of, but never really listened to,” O.A.R. and their album All Sides.OAR all sides

   About six years ago, I was at one of those cheesy-ass “murder mystery dinner parties.”  You know… everyone dresses up and acts out a murder mystery with each other, and there are themed courses to the meal that match up to the story line.  Unfortunately, my wife and I were the only ones to show up other than the host and hostess, which made it rather difficult to play out the murder mystery.  But since we had a fridge full of beer and I had a sock stuffed down my pants (it was a part of the character, I swear), we decided to play the ever-entertaining college drinking game, “Flip Cup.” 

   At one point in our Sam Adams Light-laced evening, the hostess threw a CD in the stereo.  It was upbeat and vaguely reggae-ish.  Since I was still sober enough to be able to recall the answer, I asked who the band was.

   “Of A Revolution,” the hostess replied.  A formerly-indie, formerly-college-band who half-formed in Maryland and completed their formation while attending The Ohio State University.  They benefitted from having a built-in college fan base.  They encouraged their fans to plug their laptops into the soundboard at live shows and record them for distribution (at first by burned CD, but later by FTP).  They basically rocked your face off as a younger, more island-y version of the Dave Matthews Band.

   That night, my fanboy-dom was born.

   My fanboy-dom been a long and imperfect journey.  I started out calling them “oar” (like the thing you row a boat with) for a while, rather than pronouncing the letters.  Turns out, the band hates when people do that.  I downloaded live shows from the internets… but I got wrapped up in this odd subculture of uber-dorks who only offered said downloads in some ridiculously bloated lossless audio format that then had to be converted to mp3 to be able to play.  I celebrated their graduation from cult-indie-band status into the world of major label distribution, until I realized that their sound was becoming more radio-friendly and less like the college band I’d fallen in man-love with.

   Six years later, they’ve reached a pinnacle. 

   If you listen to SIRIUS Hits 1 or The Pulse, you know who they are.  They’re the ones with the song “Shattered,” which plays roughly 20 times an hour.  (I have no idea if it’s on regular radio, as I don’t listen to that crap anymore.)  The album it came from, “All Sides,” has been out for about four months; apparently, they were in no rush to get radio airtime.  The album is polished, the instrumentals refined, the vocals clear.

   Which makes it utterly unlike what they used to be.

   I HATE being even vaguely like those jerkoff indie music listeners, who bemoan the fate of their favorite band that happens to hit the musical motherlode and go mainstream.  Nothing makes me want to punch a guy in the face more than the phrase, “Yeah, I knew them back when they were playing in tiny little joints, but they’ve sold out and gone all corporate now.”  But… yeah.  They sound like they sold their musical souls to the devil.  They sound nice.  There are a half-dozen tracks that would work on the radio.  I’m sure they’d talk about their music “maturing” and “trying something new” and blah blah blah. 

   And they got to play a show in Madison Square Garden, so they’ve got that going for them.

   But now, instead of them being a band that I can listen to while playing drinking game… they’re a band that just makes me want to drink.  What Is Mine.  It’s the only track on the album that sounds vaguely like their original work.  Hmph. 

Song you should pay $1 on iTunes, rather than downloading for free:

Rating: 

3 oars.  It’s a decent album… if it’s the first one of theirs you’ve ever listened to.

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