REVIEW: O.A.R. – King


Artist: OAR
Album: King
Genre: Jam band
Label: Wind-Up Records

I grew up in Maryland in the suburbs outside of DC, an area that is mostly home to politicians and lawyers that work in DC, but don’t want to live amongst the crackheads, which is an admirable wish, really. We really don’t have too many redeemable qualities around here, I like it, but most of the kids that grow up here have way too much money, and very easy access to every drug in the book. As a result of that, nothing really productive happens around there, just the occasional overdose, but every once in awhile, some people rise above the cloud of weed and cocaine to make a name for themselves, the most notable of which being the band OAR, a jam band filled with the usual political angst popular amongst most all DC area bands, making Maryland proud since 1996. Of course, jam bands like OAR are known for their live performance, so that is naturally the sort of thing the OAR focuses on; relentless touring schedules, and impressive live shows, and as a result of this, studio albums are few and far between. But their material for their live performances have to come from somewhere, and after awhile, the fans are going to be looking for something new. Which is where their new album, King fits in, it’s their first studio album since 2008, excluding an EP released in 2009. In the music industry, three years is an eternity, a band can be formed, reach international acclaim, and fade away in half that time, but still somehow, after 15 years, OAR can still remain relevant, and in fact, still increasing their fan base following such a sparse formula for album releases. And considering the fact that King is absolutely packed to the brim, featuring 20 songs, I’d say the time it took to churn this album out was not only justified, but down right impressive.

But are these songs any good? Three years can do a lot to a band; writer’s block, less attention from fans, and simply general aging. And strictly speaking, as far as DC music goes, I’ve always veered more towards the Darkest Hour side of things, as opposed to OAR, so I wasn’t really expecting all that much. But, as is frequently the case, I couldn’t have been more wrong. This entire album; start to finish, was actually extremely enjoyable to listen to. The album progressed brilliantly, but it wasn’t really until “Heaven” that my attention was really drawn fully to the album, and I realized how good it really was. The rest of the album was stacked up extremely well too, many of the songs having a sort of reggae feel in the verses, which in most cases doesn’t really work, even in reggae, but OAR used that stereotypical guitar rhythm perfectly. “Gotta Be Wrong Sometimes” was another fantastic song, with a very 90’s alt rock feel to it, and take that as either a compliment, or a bad thing, depending on personal preferences, but being a child of the 90’s, I was really digging it. This album really helped changed my rather narrow mind when it comes to OAR and other jam bands, and actually made me quite proud of our little music scene down in Maryland, which really doesn’t happen all that often.

All said, I feel like there really isn’t all that much point in reviewing an album like this, it’s like reviewing a movie trailer; it’s only a sneak peak of the whole picture, to really understand the full potential of this album, check out OAR on tour. The album itself is far from disappointing, especially considering the three year wait fans had to endure while waiting for the new album – a time span absolutely unheard of in today’s world – but either way, the show is still going to take all these songs to another level. If these songs are at all impressive in a studio format, then the live performance will be anything but disappointing. And given the fact that these songs are actually quite well composed, and rather interesting, I can say that it’s worth checking out not only King, but seeing OAR next time they’re on tour, or any time over the next three years or so that they’re going to be on the road before they sit down and write another album.

SCORE: 8/10
Review written: Mike Hogan

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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