Ah, O.A.R. One of my favorite bands. I just started to really hear about them my freshman and sophmore years at college. I loved their first two albums, Wanderer and Soul's Aflame and Sepe and I played the shit out of them while we played XBox our sophmore year. I'd argue with people who called them 'Oar' not 'O-A-R,' it'd be like calling R.E.M. 'Rem,' get it right. And we even took a road trip to Cinci to see them live (and stayed with Crazy Bill... good times).
They also released their first major label ablum In Between Now and Then sophmore year. I was torn on the album, it had a few good tracks, Hey Girl (again), James, Risen and Right on Time. But some of the album seemed too mellow or too jammish (I love the band, but they aren't good enough to be a 'real' jam band).
Then I saw them in concert in Columbus. Toothpick opened, this was the first time I've even heard of Toothpick, and he was a delight. Then Robert Randolph and the Family Band played, and fucking rocked. Hard. They had the entire place jumpin.
Then O.A.R. came out and proceded take it down a notch. Slow jam songs, too much saxomaphone. I was bummed. They weren't bad, but they were better when we saw them before.
So when I heard they had a new album coming out, I was luke warm. They had one of the songs up to listen to on Myspace.com, Love and Memories. The song didn't sound 'O.A.R.ish' but it wasn't a bad song. In fact, it was pretty catchy. And after a few times listening through the CD, if this song isn't a radio hit, then I don't know what is.
When I first heard the CD, I didn't like it. I became the 'I like their early stuff' guy. It was way to polished for me. To studio slick. But...
I have a 6 CD changer in my car, and 99% of the time I have 6 CDs in there. I keep finding myself coming back to this CD. The CD has grown on me. I had to get over the fact that it doesn't sound like City on Down or Night Shift.
The first track, Heard the World, is pretty sweet stuff. The chorus is catchy as hell. It's followed by Love and Memories, which I really think I'll be sick of after Top 40 radio gets ahold of it. But for now? Delightful.
The most 'old school' song on here is Wonderful Day, which was actually on their last live album, 34th and 8th.
The Stranger and Lay Down sound very U2ish to me. If you like U2, then it's cool, if you're lukewarm.... Though with Lay Down, I do like once it gets into it, it's the beginning I'm so-so on.
O.A.R. does show their reggae roots on Stories of a Stranger, with Program Director and One Shot. Both songs are good, but One Shot is pretty badass. One Shot is a song that I think can stand up to any old O.A.R. song out there.
It took me a few listens (sadly) to pick up that Dakota was a song about John Lennon. Dakota was the building Lennon lived in during his New York (final) years. The song mentions "a thief awaiting Double Fantasy" (his last album released in his life) and how "outside Dakota died the symphony." It's a good song, though I wasn't exactly expecting a Lennon tribute on a O.A.R. album, when you think of O.A.R. influences, Lennon isn't exactly the first to come to mind.
So, O.A.R. has a new album that is slickly produced. What do you do?
A) Bitch and moan about how they sold out?
B) Complain about the over-produced sound and bitch about how you liked the old O.A.R. sound
C) Get over yourself, give it a chance and actualyl enjoy the damn thing
D) Just put on The Wanderer and not think about it
My first choice was B, but upon further review, C turned out to be the right choice. Ya, they sound different, but the lyrics are still good and the songs are still fun.