First Appeared at The Music Box, April 2002, Volume 9, #4
Written by T.J. Simon
Anyone who ever attended a large university is familiar with this phenomenon: the rock band consisting of students or townies that plays the hip college bars and crowded keg parties. Every once in a while, the popular college band breaks through into the mainstream and becomes a bona-fide off-campus success. Dave Matthews Band catapulted from gigs at University of Virginia into stadium shows around the world. Likewise, Hootie and the Blowfish went from University of South Carolina beer bashes to releasing one of the best selling pop albums of the 1990s. The latest apparent success story is quickly becoming O.A.R., a tight rock band rising from the massive student body of Ohio State University and currently selling out venues across America in support of the likable new release Risen.
O.A.R. stands for Of A Revolution, but these five recent OSU graduates arenít raging against any machines. The groupís songs are simple, hook-heavy acoustic guitar-based pop tunes with experiments in the world of ska (Delicate Few) and suburban reggae (Night Shift). The bandís centerpiece is guitarist and lead singer Marc Roberge, whose forceful technique will please some listeners and annoy others. Roberge is an energetic vocalist with a limited range whose lyrics are belted out rather than sung in any sort of melodic fashion. That said, the bouncy, party-friendly sound of O.A.R., produced by the omnipresent John Alagia (Dave Matthews Band, Ben Folds, John Mayer), lends itself quite nicely to Robergeís singing style.
Risen begins with Hey Girl, a catchy guitar rock number in the Hootie tradition about a dream date that lasts all night long. Delicate Few is a ska-influenced track with a bridge pinched from Led Zeppelin laid out over a saxophone bed from band member Jerry DePizzo. And Night Shift dips into a reggae vibe, anchored by the solid drumming of Chris Culos. Undoubtedly, the CDís strongest number is If Only She Knew, an energetic 311-style ska rocker with a chorus built for fun. Even the albumís weakest moments (She Gone and Someone in the Road) are merely inconsequential and never offensive or painful to the listener.
The story of O.A.R. is a grass-roots tale of local boys made good with lessons to be learned for the major-label establishment. Through word of mouth, tape trading, and MP3 swapping ó that is, free music being used to develop an artist ó the bandís fan base has grown like a virus out of control. Since 1997, O.A.R. has released three albums and sold over 50,000 units ó all without the benefit of major label support or a sizable promotional budget. The recording industry ó as well as mega-stars against free distribution ó should take a close look at O.A.R. before taking further steps to crucify the file-sharing platforms it fears so much. Risen is proof that if you make good music and make it readily available, fans will show their support in the form of both album and ticket sales. Therein, ladies and gentlemen, lies the true revolution that O.A.R. represents. Ĺ
Risen is also available from Barnes & Noble.
To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2002 The Music Box