The Wag

CD Review: Long Story Short

For the Middletown, New Jersey-based band The Wag, the shift of musical direction in its latest 2004 release "Long Story Short" represents growth.

The guitar-heavy compact disc displays the workings of a band not afraid to change, while not compromising its foundation.

"It's a little different than our last release, ["Ordinary Day"], which was mostly upbeat, positive pop music," said bassist Brian Ostering. "I guess this album kind of shows what we can do from one end of the spectrum to the other," Ostering said. "It's a big sampling of what we can do."

While sampling is definitely an ample term, the band continues to make a lyrical statement, as it has done in the past. Guitarist Dan Corboy steps up and delivers some amazingly versatile guitar solos and spicy guitar riffs, while the band continues to add its patented vocal harmonies and clever lyrics.

On "Long Story Short," the band gets jazzy and bluesy and even goes country on the bop diddy "Paper Cup." However, the John/Paul/Ringo/George-esque harmonies featured on the band's previous releases are still present.

"Although we have a bunch of songs that are positive and upbeat, we do approach other subjects that aren't necessarily as light-hearted lyrically, and we try to complement them musically as we see fit," said drummer Brian Mowery.

Ostering's vocals continue to grow as evident from track one, "I Got the Girl," which is an out-and-out rocker, while the vocals and keyboard playing of Alicia Van Sant remain heavily pertinent to the sound that is The Wag. Mowery clearly can cut it with any studio musician in the business, solidly complementing the band's compositions.

"Dan and Brian [Ostering] are traditionally the songwriters of the band," Mowery said. "What I try to do is help out rhythmically and arrangement-wise, given the parameters put forth by the songwriters."

All four musicians, individually, are deserving of Asbury Music Awards, something the band as a group has been nominated for in the past three years, in the Best Pop Band category.

Their vocal harmonies make the band stand out from the large pack of local bands around the Jersey Shore music scene, Corboy said. "I think it's kind of a Wag thing now," he said. "We have three-part harmonies on most of our songs. That is a big way that we stand out from other bands."

The band has received airplay on Brookdale Community College's radio station (90.5) in Lincroft. The station played the band's version of the 16th-century Christmas carol, "Riu Chiu," on Christmas day.

The band has played more than 100 gigs at venues, including the Saint and Stone Pony in Asbury Park and the Broadway Central Cafe in South Amboy.

The Wag has been featured on television and radio, and has opened for national acts, including John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band and Rick Springfield, at the Stone Pony.

"We received so many e-mails from people who hadn't seen us before from that [Rick Springfield] show," Van Sant said. "It went on for weeks."

In August 2001, during Wag's set at the Clearwater Festival in Asbury Park, New Jersey, music legend Bruce Springsteen bobbed his head to their music along with the rest of the crowd after playing a surprise acoustic set of his own.

When Springsteen called for other local performers to share the stage with him, Ostering did just that. Then, Van Sant gave Springsteen one of their CDs. She asked Springsteen to return to watch Wag's performance, which he did.

"It was exciting to play for somebody who's been in the business so long," Ostering said.

The band was excited when Springsteen told them he enjoyed their music, Van Sant said. "He was really nice to us," Mowery said.

The Wag's music can be purchased at Jack's Music in Red Bank, Music Connection in Elmwood Park and Laird Stationary in Fair Haven.

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Josh Davidson

Josh Davidson has written music feature articles for Jersey Style and served as the Jersey Shore rock columnist for Steppin' Out Magazine. Other music writing credits include Aquarian Weekly, Jersey Beat, Backstreets and He has written free-lance for the Asbury Park Press' Community Sports section and has written featured articles for its news section, as well as covering campus news and sports weekly for the Signal, the College of New Jersey's (formerly Trenton State College) student newspaper. He has worked as a staff writer for The Independent, and his work for Greater Media Newspapers has also been published in the News Transcript. He is a former beat reporter for the Ocean County Observer who presently is a news writer for Symbolic Systems Inc. supporting the US Army's Knowledge Center. His music writing covers a vast range of topics, from the current cover band craze, highs and lows of the original scene, to the early days of the Jersey Shore rock scene in Asbury Park. He is also a musician, having written hundreds of songs as a singer/songwriter, and playing them out as a solo/acoustic artist. He has also played with cover bands, including It Doesn't Matter, and several original bands, including as the guitarist for the solo project of singer/songwriter Dave Eric. He continues to work on solo material and is presently the guitar player for Jersey Breeze.