1. HANDS OFF THE WHEEL
|This four-piece band from Sacramento, California, USA has been
around for a while and released their first album way back in 1997. This is actually their
fourth LP to date and with Joyride they employ a slightly heavier
sound than has been used on any of its predecessors.
Oleander have produced eleven tracks of driving, high energy, hard rock in a Silverchair or Nickelback kind of way, but far more rugged. There are some good energetic workouts that would please many live crowds and demonstrating plenty of fine guitar work, featuring both thumping riffs as well as flurries of fretwork. There are some very accomplished vocals that are smooth, well sung, powerful when required but also nicely tempered for the slower numbers.
Runaway Train is a nice acoustic ballad that is somewhat reminiscent of classic Tyketto, showing the gentler side of the band and strangely remains as a definite highlight of the album. Rainy Day is another laid-back and calming song that works very well and the tranquil amble of Leave It All Behind with its initial echos of Incubus shows similar tendencies. The remaining songs are harder and more aggressive, adhering too closely to formula and subsequently returning a slight generic quality with maybe Don't Break My Fall and Better Luck Next Time standing out.
A quote from the band states that Oleander are simply a rock n roll band and I think that hits the nail on the head. They already sell well in the States and this is probably where their music sits best with a huge market for the more corporate and commercially acceptable style of rock, where its possible to still do well by playing it safe. With their system of typically catchy hooks and choruses youre surprised when the album requires many listens to sink in and too many songs are almost forgettable and perhaps even benign. They do everything that a rock band should and they do it with huge amounts of talent but somehow it still leaves this listener with feelings that are peculiarly constrained and frustrated.
Rigsby (10th March, 2003)