CD Review

Thrice
Vheissu
(Island)
HHIII

Well, it finally happened. Thrice has sunk too far into a pit of their own high mindedness.

For three albums, this California-based outfit has pumped out fast punk rock mixed with some Iron Maiden metal-style riffing and surprisingly tender melodic moments.

They have also attempted to expand the political awareness of all of their listeners. A cut of the money spent on every Thrice album goes toward a charity of the band’s choosing.

Unfortunately, while the political aspect remains intact for Vheissu, their fourth album, the music has become repetitive and boring.

Vocalist Dustin Kensrue used to alternate regularly between equally effective screaming and singing vocals. The singing takes up about 80 percent of this album, and when he finally does let loose with a yelp or two, it is not nearly as effective as it once was. And the music is just as boring. Guitarist Teppei Teranishi is not given a chance to show off his chops as he was in previous albums.

It is as if they instructed him to tone it down in the interest of not cluttering up the songs, which would have been fine if they’d actually written a good batch of songs.

The recording quality is also sort of a curious choice. The songs have a lot of epic, orchestral sounding arrangements, but the recording sounds flat and one- dimensional, unlike their major label debut, The Artist in the Ambulance, which was full and punchy.

There are occasional moments of brief respite on the album (“Hold Fast Hope” manages to get a bit of energy going), but for fans of older Thrice, this new, very different incarnation of the band is almost sure to be a disappointment.

– Chuck DelRoss

O.A.R.
Stories of a Stranger
Aly Semigran
4 STARS

Popular among college students, and well, pretty much anyone who likes to play a crazy game of poker, rock band O.A.R. – not referring to the aquatic paddle (it stands for Of a Revolution) – just released their seventh album Stories of a Stranger. By far the band’s slickest album to date, it has the makings to catapult O.A.R. right into the big time.

Though no stranger to the spotlight, O.A.R. has opened to the likes of the Dave Matthews Band and The Wallflowers, they have not become as mainstream as their predecessors. Stories of a Stranger, which has a noticeably new reggae and pop-rock flair to it, has many songs that sound radio-bound.

Lead singer Marc Roberge, along with band mates Richard On, Chris Culos, Benj Gershman and Jerry DePizzo can all be accounted for the success Stories of a Stranger has already seen. It debuted at No. 40 on the Billboard charts, the bands highest debut yet, a sign of things to come.

The album’s opening track, “Heard the World,” is a song about living in the U.S. during uncertain times. The following song, “Love and Memories,” have a polished pop sound that may scare off their hippie fans, but certainly draw in more radio-friendly crowds. Not to say devoted fans should worry, tracks such as “Program Director,” “52-50,” “Dakota,” and “Wonderful Day” will keep them happy.

One thing that certainly hasn’t changed for O.A.R. is the messages they convey in their music. The band’s albums have always been packed with odes to friends, family and loved ones. Roberge keeps that consistent on Stories of a Stranger, particularly with the track “Nasim Joon.” Nasim is the name of his wife and Joon in Persian means “my love.” Ladies, we may all collectively swoon right now.

The feel of O.A.R.’s Stories of a Stranger is to keep moving on and be the best person you can in a mixed-up world. The strongest example of that comes from the track “Daylight the Dog.” Roberge croons, “If you’re lost in the dark,Get to where you can see, There is somewhere we’re supposed to be, And you know in a matter of time, You set yourself free.”

In a world where music has so many negative messages, O.A.R. is a nice change of pace. For someone who has never heard O.A.R. before, it’s better to start with a live album and work your way up to fully appreciate what this band has to offer. For current fans, don’t worry, the band hasn’t folded yet.

-Aly Semigran

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