The problem with Oleander is that it is genuinely a good band. Having released their second album, Unwind, in the spring of 2001 amidst a flurry of likeminded offerings from somewhat likeminded other bands, Flowers and company faced that age-old rock & roll obstacle of being circumstantially swallowed up into a gaping black hole of mediocrity ripped wide open by the exploding force of the very same musical style they arguably helped to popularize on 1999's February Son. Truthfully, aside from the presence of its two major singles -- "Are You There?" and "Halo" -- Unwind plays through so smoothly and nonchalantly in preliminary auditions that it almost doesn't appear much different than your run-of-the-mill millennial post-grunge album, and that's exactly what is so frustrating because that may be too premature a jumping-off point for too many listeners. Only in subsequent plays do many of the tracks suddenly begin to break ranks and become visible from one another. Under scrutiny, songs like "Yours if You Like," "Benign," and the especially pummeling "Jimmy Shaker Day" start to become as poundingly catchy as "Are You There?" ever was. After a few turns, it becomes apparent that Flowers and his bandmates do have a definite craft and they aren't being sheer poseurs, but the obstacle still lies in the fact that they have yet to develop a signature sound, or at the very least (as is the case with Creed -- whose sound isn't necessarily original whatsoever) something that is associated only with Oleander itself. Honestly, despite all the skill and melody present here, there isn't anything stylistically that couldn't be found elsewhere in some capacity or another, but since the boys in Oleander are indeed very talented, if they do ever manage to round off those lingering heavy hints of Nirvana's influence from their songs and can stamp their aptitudes with a more distinct sort of autograph, expect much greater things from them in the future.
by Jon Stoeckley