You may have heard the name Oleander before, but for the casual radio listener, Oleander is simply ‘that band that had that one song, “Why I’m Here”’, a relatively successful radio hit four years ago. Not unlike many similar bands in Oleander’s genre (that being grandiose, big sounding alternative rock ‘n’ roll), the music on Joyride is pretty much recycled ideas from the heyday of mainstream alternative radio; not a whole lot has changed here since the early ‘90s. While simplicity and copycatting may sound like negative things, often times they are not; such is the case with Joyride.
People that like music because it is innovative or groundbreaking make up a very small portion of the radio listening audience; for the most part, if it rocks, people will like it. Oleander can really rock out! “Off and On” is a surly and seedy rocker with dirty sounding guitars, reminiscent of Core-era Stone Temple Pilots. The verse creeps along a sexy, yet trashy sounding guitar riff, only to explode into a truly triumphant chorus which puts lead singer Thomas Flowers’ voice out there to be noticed. His voice is warm, scathing, and welcoming, all at once. “Off and On” is the most instantly memorable song on the CD, and if given a proper chance, could be a real rock radio hit.
The album’s title track starts off with an up-tempo AC/DC style guitar riff, anticipatory drums, and a sneaky vocal line “You’ve got to get it to give away”. The song then comes together in a minor explosion of intensity. The awkward, off kilter chorus is similar to what a lot of emo bands (Braid, Get Up Kids, for ex.) were doing in the late ‘90s. This kind of music, when done properly, is really cool sounding, and the whiney guitar line featured here accentuates the weird drum beat.
It is pretty hard to pigeonhole this record completely, but for the most part, the songs are similar to what Soundgarden was doing on their last record, before they broke up. Some more alert rock fans will remember a band called Sponge, and Oleander’s song structures on Joyride remind me very much of Sponge. “Don’t Break My Fall” especially reminds me of Sponge, crossed with Smash-era Offspring. This song is a tremendous rocker, with guitars big enough to block the sun! Wow!
As I said before, this one isn’t going to go down as the most innovative album of 2003, but who cares? Oleander is a really good band, and what they’re doing is presented much better than what their tour-mates, and mega rock stars, Nickleback are doing. Imagine a credible, believable version of Nickleback, with better song craft and delivery; you would have the enjoyable and very rockin’ Joyride. In a sentence or less, Oleander is a band at the top of their game, and this an album well worth your money.