Originally formed as a result of Amerian reality TV series Making the Band in 2000, O-Town released two albums and achieved some commercial success before splitting up in 2003. Now, four of the five original members have reformed the group and recorded new material for their third album, Lines & Circles. It will be interesting to see how they have adapted to the current pop scene in the years since their original split.
Opening track Chasin’ After You stays true to the band’s roots with a catchy track. Though the vocals on the verses leave something to be desired, the chorus works just fine. One of the later verses invokes the names of various A-list female celebrities such as Scarlett Johansson and Jennifer Lawrence as a means of complimenting the song’s female subject. This really proves how up-to-date the band is, even if it is through a simple love song like this.
The melancholy lost-love ballad Skydive makes for a surprising yet decent about-face with its usage of piano and strings. Unlike the previous track, the hook in the chorus sounds slightly off-beat to me, which is a shame considering how good the rest of the song sounds. Rewind stands out with its distinctive beat and moody synthesiser melody. The vocals here alternate between soulful R&B crooning and competent yet unspectacular rapping. The synthesiser in particular makes this track a highlight.
The band then decides to vary their sound further by bringing guitars into the mix. Playing with Fire starts with guitars but reverts back to synthesisers soon enough – a decision that renders the song merely okay. Conversely, I Won’t Lose ends up emphasising the guitar while laying off the synthesisers and is no better or worse in terms of quality than Playing With Fire. Right Kind of Wrong marks another guitar-driven song, however this time it’s used in a more upbeat manner. The lyrics are uncomplicated party lyrics about pursuing a romantic interest complete with one verse full of rapping, but these differences only make for a slight improvement.
Buried Alive drops the synthesised elements of the band’s music completely to make for a slow ballad that only features acoustic guitars in addition to the singing. Unfortunately, the stripping down of the band’s sound isn’t enough to make the song especially interesting and it feels like a novelty more than anything else. Got to Go brings back the piano sound to good effect in a soulful number with a swaggering rhythm, but once again the song is merely passable. It’s followed up by another sad piano-based song with Sometimes Love Ain’t Enough. At least the hook on this one is an improvement, if a slight one. Appropriately enough, the titular closing track brings things full-circle through the return of the synthesiser-heavy sound of the first track. Certainly one of the more soulful numbers, the synthesisers here service the song better than piano or guitar ever could and it’s a good way to close the album.
It’s all too easy to be cynical and see Lines & Circles as a cash-grab by a band trying to ride the current wave of early-2000s nostalgia, but it seems like the remaining members of O-Town have put some serious effort into making a worthwhile album. I certainly can’t fault them for trying and the result certainly isn’t lazy, but it definitely sounds limited. For all the different instruments and styles that feature on this album, the music on display is of inconsistent quality and ultimately the whole album just sounds average. I’ll certainly recommend it to people who want a trendy-sounding pop band that can sound cheerful and lovelorn with equal amounts of sincerity, but those of you who want something with a bit more substance are advised to look elsewhere.