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Philly band delivers a pleasing
debut of funk, ska and rock

Oso - The Bellringer
3 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: June 9, 2009

Review by Tony Bonyata

On their debut full-length effort entitled The Bellringer the Philadelphia rock quartet Oso (which means "bear" in Spanish) have produced a pleasing blend of reggae, funk and indie rock with just a hint of West Coast punk sensibilities and jam band noodling. While not earth-shattering, the boy's wear their influences on their sleeve - most notably incorporating the funky ska of Long Beach faves Sublime and the genre hopping of alt-rockers CAKE.

More importantly than creating their own sound, though, is the fact that frontman and chief songwriter Mike Schaller has not only crafted a handful of strong compositions with some lasting hooks, but his vocals are a standout throughout. Add in some fine musicianship from his guitarist brother, Steve, along with bassist Mike Gordon and drummer Josh Fullam's groove-induced rhythms and this is a band that sounds as if they've had a lot more experience than just one record. The opening track "Rain On Me" is a great melding of modern indie pop and blue-eyed funk, while Schaller's angular ska guitar drives the bouncy number "The B's," a song which was recently featured on the Food Network's wedding special.

Surprisingly, however, things get most interesting on both the introspective closing track "The Final Call," which sounds as if a '70s folk musician was tinkering in Radiohead's studio, as well as the more rocking "Checkmate," which speeds along at a nice clip before it erupts into a symphonic, sonic jam by the end of the song.

All in all, Oso's The Bellringer is a fine album from a new and promising young act - and one that will no doubt help jump start your next backyard bash this summer. For more info on Oso and to purchase The Bellringer go to:

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