Album Review: O.A.R. – “King”

Artist: O.A.R. (…Of A Revolution)
Album: “King”
Release date: August 2, 2011

One of the biggest fears in the music industry is if and when a band will sell out.

A band can sell out two different ways: by producing nothing but garbage music from the start to turn a quick buck or by forgetting their roots and what made them famous in order to stay relevant in the music industry.

What O.A.R. did was the latter, and in quite possibly the worst way.

The 14-year-old group from Ohio came out with their new album, “King,” today. I was excited to hear one of my favorite band’s new albums because, despite the disappointment in their last effort, I always like to hear new music being written by bands I’ve shelled out a ton of money for.

“King” was a huge step back from “All Sides,” which came out in 2008. It took “All Sides” a while to grow on me after hearing the songs translated live. The album had some gems in it but I doubt that will be the case for “King.” I mean there is hope but I won’t get my hopes up.

Richard On tweeted me telling me that I “Gotta B Wrong Sometimes” in response to me telling him I did not like the album and thought it was O.A.R.’s effort. But at least he did respond which shows this band cares about their music still, and I can respect that a lot. Drummer Chris Culos also responded saying, “well, that’s just like… your opinion, man. ha. thanks for at least giving it a shot. catch you on another day.”

The first single on the album, “Heaven,” is by far the worst single this band has ever released. At least “Love & Memories” and “Shattered” were decent songs live. But “Heaven” sounded like a crappy Deathcab for Cutie rip off, having no genuine sound at all.

And it gets worse through out the album. The opening song “King” features either Mikell Paris playing the horn parts on the keys or a very awful effect used by saxophonist Jerry DePizzo. And it wasn’t just there. The awful synthetic horn sound popped up through out the album. “Not For Me” is one instant of this. It’s a really good song but that synthetic horn sound is awful. It sounds extremely phony. If DePizzo played a straight sax part on it, it would sound absolutely incredible.

There are a handful of salvageable songs in the middle of the CD. The album’s eighth track, “The Last Time” and 11th track “Gotta Live” actually resembled the first time O.A.R. tried to evolve their sound, which wasn’t a bad thing, back on their 2003 album “In Between Now & Then” and the 2005 effort “Stories of A Stranger.”

But “Gotta Live” has a weak lyrical chorus that goes something like this:

Gotta live like it is your last shot
Gotta live it up and down everyday
Gotta live if you want to have a good life
Everyday gotta do more than you say
Gotta live like it’s the last time
Gotta give it up and down everyday
Gotta live if you want to have a good life
Let’s do it now would you show me how
Gotta live

It’s a waste of good music when Marc Roberg spews out lame lyrics such as that.

“Fire” and “Gotta Be Wrong Sometimes” are also very strong songs. “Gotta Be Wrong Sometimes” has a chance at being another single released by this band. It moves at that single-like pace and can become a constant play in a live setting.

The second single off the album is “Taking on the World Today.” Despite the cheesy message in the song, it’s actually very good and I could see it being a staple at every live show. This should have been the album’s first single and “Heaven” never should have even been written let alone be the album’s first single.

What’s more disturbing is Richard On’s guitar playing disappeared entirely on this album. One of the joys of listening to “The Wanderer,” “Risen” and “Souls Aflame” was hearing every song driven by On’s strong guitar playing. He’s a good soloist live and has some very nice licks on the band’s cornerstone songs.

What’s even more frustrating are the Interludes on the album. The first and third actually sound like they could have been turned into great songs instead of a one minute lazy jam. Singer Marc Roberg should have actually sat down and worked on some good lyrics for those songs because they had potential. Instead, he pooped out 13 crappy songs.

Lastly, the only song that actually may get a few plays on my iPod on purpose is the piano driven “Over and Over.” The one thing Roberg actually has done well is turn out powerful and emotional slow songs. His solo “I Feel Home” is a legendary staple at concerts and it’s nice to see another song have the potential to share that spot in the set list.

This is my first impression of the new album. Will it grow on me? Possibly. Remember, DMB’s masterpiece “Before These Crowded Streets” was despised at its release and is now considered the band’s greatest effort.

I told my brother to not take my opinion and buy the album and listen for himself. But as of right now, “King” flopped big time for O.A.R., who I come to expect much better things from.

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13 comments on “Album Review: O.A.R. – “King”

  1. Kevan says:

    Good job quoting lyrics from the wrong song. What an idiot.

  2. Chris says:

    Your entire post is discredited because you don’t have the right song for the lyrics. It’s gotta live, not heaven. What a lame review and writing style you have.

  3. John Russo says:

    I apologize. I wasn’t paying attention.

  4. W. says:

    Started listening to O.A.R. in 2003 or so, so I’ve been with them since the “roots” stage you were talking about.

    And while I agree with you that the band is better live, I’ve really enjoyed their last two studio albums. I don’t like how any time an artist or group tries to grow, they get trashed for “selling out.”

    Just because you prefer their old stuff, it doesn’t mean that their new stuff is trash, nor does it mean the band has sold out. It just means the band has evolved and that they’ve gone in a direction that you don’t like as much.

  5. ProJoe says:

    Your review was filled with inaccurate info. From Ohio? They did go to college there but they are from Maryland. You have a lot to learn about reviews. If you were really familiar with their music you would know this is their closest album to their roots since Risen. They added a hip-hop element to a couple of their songs which brought out your biased opinion. Lyrics were as strong as ever for OAR. The only thing that I agree with you is that the interludes are a waste of track space. DMB’s BTCS may have been despised by you at first, but the rest of the world enjoyed it. You are a tool that is influenced on others opinions.

    • John Russo says:

      I’m sorry you disagree. They were formed at Ohio State though I know they are from Maryland.

      And I loved BTCS at first listen. But I’ve read A LOT of horrible reviews on it when it first came out. I for my own opinions and can’t tolerate those without an original thought. I’m sorry you got that impression.

  6. KB says:

    Wow. Pretty harsh. I’ve been a long time OAR listener and I find this album very refreshing compared to the last two. Finally the old OAR is back. More acoustic, more sax, more vocals…that’s what OAR is about. You should listen to it a few more times and remember the songs of old while enjoying the songs of new. Every OAR fan I’ve talked to says this is much more in line with what they used to do. It’s great, but you opinion, although incorrect in my opinion is your choice.

  7. […] couple days ago, I was sorting through the hate comments I was receiving for my rather brutal review of O.A.R.’s most recent effort “King” when I stumbled upon a comment that grabbed […]

  8. dave says:

    Just got my copy of the new album, loving it! Also loving the new video for “Heaven” on VEVO http://vevo.ly/rpz2P3 and this behind the scenes video http://youtu.be/Nao2s2rqbLg

  9. Erin Marie says:

    Thanks for sharing your review about the band! I can’t stop listening to this CD. Perfect driving music. I found some great Behind the Scene footage if you want to take a look:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nao2s2rqbLg&feature=youtu.be

  10. shelby says:

    “King” is a great album that old and new fans will both enjoy! The video for “Heaven” is great. watch it now here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8m0y6BL9_P4&ob=av2n

  11. Adecmr says:

    I’ve been listening to KING a lot lately, it’s such an amazing record, and worth every single penny. But you can always take it on a test run using spotify! http://open.spotify.com/album/1k9OZulSdz4j4mbgkgRrtx

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