With its polished production and slick, radio-ready melodies, All Sides presents an important question: what happens to the quintessential college band after 12 years of touring and recording? Essentially, the college band grows up. It's been more than a decade since O.A.R. honed an undergraduate-friendly sound at Ohio State University, and the five bandmates are now pushing 30. Faced with the prospect of playing mellow frat rock for another ten years, O.A.R. took a different approach to this album, hiring producer Matt Wallace (the man behind Maroon 5's Songs About Jane) in an effort to crack the Billboard charts. Wallace slaps a thick coat of commercial paint onto All Sides, cloaking Marc Roberge's vocals in reverb and adding thick layers of piano, strings, and guitars stolen from the U2 fake book. In the process, he all but erases the identity that took O.A.R. years to build.
Perhaps the album's most egregious misstep is "Shattered," a faceless pop/rock track that pitches its tent somewhere between OneRepublic and Augustana's lucrative stomping grounds. Co-written by Gregg Wattenberg, a veteran hitmaker for artists like Five for Fighting and Chris Daughtry, the song has little to do with the laid-back band that once sang about crazy games of poker. Of course, nobody can fault O.A.R. for trying something new; one just wishes the guys had chosen a genre within their grasp, as they simply don't have the chops to handle this sort of polished, hollow, adult contemporary fare. Traces of the old O.A.R. show up during the album's second half, but they're far too out of place to be enjoyable, like a happy-go-lucky fraternity brother who accidentally stumbles into a black-tie corporate event. All Sides is puzzling, hollow, and ultimately disappointing, and the album's relative chart success -- including a platinum certification for "Shattered," which found a happy place on Top 40 radio amidst all the bands it so blatantly aped -- provides little relief.