O.A.R.
The Rockville LP


2.5
average

Review

by NordicMindset USER (160 Reviews)
October 2nd, 2014 | 5 replies


Release Date: 2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Shattered, again.

O.A.R. were just one of those bands that were never meant to become a huge pop success. I mean, come on, let’s get real here; there’s no way a band can go from making nine-minute long songs about poker games to churning out songs with titles like “Heaven”, “Favorite Song” and “I Will Find You” without some major backlash. And backlash there was – 2008’s All Sides was reviled by critics, with several lamenting why O.A.R. decided to take the soft rock route, completely stripping the identity that had a spent over a decade building. There was barely any trace left of their jam rock roots, and for a group known as a “poor man’s Dave Matthews Band” for the majority of their career, All Sides was just not what anyone had expected. Yet for a moment, O.A.R. tasted the enticing grasp of fame, with lead single “Shattered (Turn the Car Around)” reaching #2 on the Billboard Adult Pop Songs chart and being certified Platinum for selling over 1,000,000 copies. Honestly, it’s not all that bad of a song; it’s got enough emotion without seeming overly saccharine, and as far as sellout songs go, there have been far worse. Yet, for many, it marked the beginning of O.A.R.’s decline, a far cry from the material they were making a decade earlier.

Much like All Sides and the album following it, King, The Rockville LP only goes to prove the ineffectiveness of O.A.R.’s poppier direction. There used to be a sense of flair and energy on songs like “Hey Girl” or even “Love and Memories”, but unsurprisingly, all of that remains nowhere to be seen here. The problem is not that O.A.R. went soft, but that the music is all so stale and uninteresting. The Rockville LP could be the playlist for any average Adult Contemporary radio station, and that’s been the band’s motto for the past half a decade. Yet despite its sameness, the album also tries to retread old territory. Following the release of 2012’s King, O.A.R. returned to their hometown of Rockville, Maryland for the first time in ten years, revisiting familiar places and faces with the sole purpose of rediscovering their roots, thus inspiring the title of the album. The only problem is, this so-called “return to roots” is really just nothing except a dash more of reggae and the new addition of some slight country influences, most likely due to the band writing them in Nashville. For the most part, The Rockville LP is a continuation of O.A.R.’s softer sound with some minor blasts from the past.

It’s not like the album is a complete failure – opener “Two Hands Up” fuses jam rock, reggae and some twangy guitars to create something that semi-resembles old O.A.R., even if it’s still got that polished sheen to it. Lead single “Peace” is an acoustic ballad that actually manages to be one of the more emotional songs that the band has written. “I just wanna make you laugh / I just wanna see that smile,” pleads frontman Marc Roberge as he desperately attempts to mend a broken relationship that is already broken beyond repair. Elsewhere, “The Architect” incorporates a ska-like brass section, with blaring horns that haven’t been seen on an O.A.R. song for years. As The Rockville LP continues, the songs become longer and more dragged out, culminating in the nine-minute long closer “I Will Find You”. The last four tracks all break four minutes, but the megalithic finale ranks as one of the band’s longest songs, just narrowly beating out “That Was a Crazy Game of Poker”. While “I Will Find You” isn’t as good (after all, topping “That Was a Crazy Game of Poker” is a pretty tough feat), it’s definitely one of the highlights on The Rockville LP. The dynamic track switches from slow to mid-tempo to fast suddenly, with no indication of a switchup happening. The first portion of the song is an emotional ballad, with saxophones blaring as Roberge repeatedly cries out the titular phrase over and over again. Four minutes in, the tempo increases slightly, but it’s the last change with three minutes remaining that speeds things up tenfold. Taking on a more country-like speed, “I Will Find You” draws The Rockville LP to a close with repeated live gang chants of “hey, just keep believing”. Because after all, isn’t that all we can do?

With their eighth studio album, O.A.R. continue down the pop rock path, only this time they managed to throw in a few more eclectic influences into their formula. While it manages to be better than King and All Sides, it’s still not a complete return to the quality they used to bring in their jam rock days. O.A.R. going soft was just something that the band would never come out of unscathed, especially since their every part of their identity was stripped away in the process of becoming a The Fray wannabe. The self-proclaimed “return to roots” doesn’t make The Rockville LP any less stale or uninteresting than anything they made in the last five years. Just take “Caroline the Wrecking Ball”, a nearly seven-minute long track that goes absolutely nowhere despite having a jazz breakdown; it just plods on and on and on, and that’s summative of the album as a whole. I mean, there’s no way trying to awkwardly name-drop as many music references as possible is ever going to work out. The Rockville LP is yet another middle-age O.A.R. album that, despite its attempt at retracing their steps, ultimately plays it too safe to be enjoyable.



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user ratings (5)
2.5
average

Comments:Add a Comment 
Jots
Emeritus
October 2nd 2014


7562 Comments


"would never come out unscathed" - out of*..?

"there’s no way trying to awkwardly name-drop as many music references as possible is ever going to work out" - reminds me of a Green Baron review... i kid, i kid

Your reviews are always (from what I've seen) really informative, with plenty of background info to build up to the album. It's not my review style at all, but I can commend it. You definitely do your research. Pos

Skoop
October 2nd 2014


2201 Comments


Agree with this review, band hasn't done much for me since Stories.

ScuroFantasma
Emeritus
October 2nd 2014


12008 Comments


fantastic review Green, pos'd hard. "especially since their every part of their identity was stripped away" first their should be removed.

ChoccyPhilly
October 2nd 2014


13629 Comments


Still sticking around to post reviews, eh?

BMDrummer
October 2nd 2014


15108 Comments


hi bong tam



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