For a band that has been around since the mid ’90s, O.A.R. sure knows how to alter their style to match what is current while still keeping some form of originality to make them stand out from other bands similar to them. However, while their newest release The Rockville LP incorporates modern instrumentation, there is an apparent lack of spark that previous works (including their well-received 2008 album All Sides and 2011’s King) have.
The music itself had a lot of potential to be unique and eclectic, but it ultimately became a repetitive blur of cookie cut pop rock (think Train or Parachute) mixed with reggae rock (a less cool version of Pepper) and forever feeling like lead singer Marc Roberge is going to bust out into George Michael‘s “Careless Whisper” at any given moment. Sure, the rhythm guitars and saxophone successfully give their music a cool beach-y flair to it, but in the end the album just sound like a giant mash-up of songs that sound exactly the same.
In a nutshell, the starting track “Two Hands Up”, and “Favorite Song” both have a funky pop rock/reggae blend goin’ on. Thee track “Peace”is kind of a letdown in terms of theme (I’m sorry, but sometimes love is not the answer to everyone’s life problems!) and “The Architect” sounds like elevator music with a subtle Latin flair to it. The Rockville LP‘s only semi-ballad (literally) “So Good So Far” reminds you to enjoy the great moments as they roll in and not dwell on the crappy ones. “The Element” is a fun little anthem with cool yet non-overbearing chants and makes you want to clap your hands and stomp your feet. The final stretch of the album is so long and drawn out with back-to-back over 5 minute songs in “Caroline the Wrecking Ball”(almost 7 minutes) and “I Will Find You (a whopping 9 minutes). Seriously, no song should ever be past 5 minutes unless it’s a really, really good song and these tracks make you want to ask for it to be over rather than for more.
“We’ll Pick Up Where We Left Off” tells a very realistic story of someone who’s still chasing after the person who doesn’t want them anymore. Its pleading chorus consisting of “hey, don’t say goodbye, just say goodnight/and we’ll pick up where we left off/we’ll say hello then welcome home/and we’ll pick up where we left off” digs at your heart strings whether or not you’ve actually experienced someone leaving you for no reason. “Place to Hide” has similar music to Michelle Branch‘s debut hit “Everywhere”, but has a lot more to it than meets the ear. A majority of the lyrics are in past tense, which means that Roberge was pretty much reminiscing during the entire song. Verses like “time ain’t on our side” and obvious lyrics mentioning an illness gives the listener the idea that the person that this song is written for may not be around anymore…which is damn depressing if you ask me!
The Rockville LP just felt like O.A.R. was trying really hard to appeal to the younger crowd and unfortunately it came across as desperate and unoriginal. The lack of creativity in the lyrics mixed with the fact that it literally sounds like you’re listening to the same song on repeat definitely doesn’t help their case. In fact, it kind of pushes away old fans who had high hopes for the album. Maybe in their next album they’ll remember that they’re an older band and shouldn’t be gearing their music to the simpleton minds of the youth of today.