Matty Wise brings us the scoop on Ken Oak Band’s latest, Vienna to Venice.

Ken Oak Band, Vienna to Venice (2006), Indie Rock, Cello Rock Records

Unlike my normally ridiculously long reviews, I’ll make this short and to the point. Yawn. The end. Ok, I’ll be a little bit fairer. Ken Oak Band’s Vienna to Venice is pretty, very clean, and has strong vocals and decent harmonies. That’s it. I’m done. Over. Catch y’all later. Nah, I’m just kidding, but I apologize if my review feels half assed or unmotivated, and I’d almost prefer to go on a tangent about why the Archos G-Mini is the biggest waste of two hundred dollars ever, but I won’t. It’s just that Vienna to Venice did very little for me. But here’s my review anyway.

Ken Oak Band has two members, Ken Oak (cellist/vocals/guitar) and Ed Gorski (vocals/guitar). Their newest release, Vienna to Venice, was released October 2006 by Cello Rock Records, and like its label is described as “cello rock”. Ken Oak Band plays slow, very sweet sounding songs. I can picture hundreds of girls swooning over his lyrics (and I apologize for my gender normative stereotype). His lyrics are very introspective, which is fine, except I think I’ve come to the conclusion I’m not too keen on introspective lyrics. Especially when bands start singing about their relationships. Seriously, why, why must people always write about their relationships with their significant other? Maybe I’m just bitter because I’m not in one, but God, is that your only motivation for writing songs? Gah! So many bands have already done this that anything anyone says pretty much comes off as clichéd. But maybe that’s my own problem I have to deal with so I won’t hold it against them.

The truth is, Ken Oak Band’s lyrics are best when they are writing descriptively about their relationships. And to be honest, there were even times when the lyrics really touched me. In the song, Hey Andrew, Ken Oak talks about someone he knows who died. The lyrics really hit home since Andrew’s the same name as my dead brother. Oak sings “I see you up ahead, and I’m not far behind / I cherish the times locked in my mind / Cannonballs off the top in the warm sun of May” is eerily reminiscent of my own brother who’d do crazy big cannonballs off the diving board. The song finishes with Oak singing “But I swear I’m fine” a few times as if he’s really trying affirm it as truth, and the sad moans of the cello, which I’d normally consider cheesy, work somewhat well here.

Musically I thought Ken Oak Band sounds kind of like Dave Matthews Band or John Mayer, and it comes as no surprise that they are in fact some of the band’s influences. However, Ken Oak Band has not quite reached the musicianship of either. The cello’s a pretty cool instrument, and it is my favorite of the classical strings, but I felt like there was not enough diversity in sound coming from it. The same goes for the guitar and vocals. Every song is relatively slow, and there was nothing that made me want to really bounce in my seat or nod my head as rock normally does. The thing is, I could see any one of these songs being a single on the radio. Then again, I don’t listen to the radio. If the songs were heard on their own I’d at least be able to tolerate them, if not enjoy one or two, but when they are combined there is not enough variation that it gets pretty boring after the first five songs. To be fair, I’m not a big fan of this sound. I once loved clean sounding musicians like DMB and John Mayer, but now I’m more inclined to the more experimental sounds of bands like Animal Collective or Radiohead. While cello rock is a pretty cool concept, I’m afraid that Vienna to Venice will just become another one of those lost albums that my goddamn G-mini decides to delete.

matty wise