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Quirky and energetic, OK Go leaps into the listener’s memory

James Costa | Friday, September 7, 2007

While millions have taken delight in the eclectic music videos of OK Go as the band members dance around the backyard and across treadmills, few have taken the next step toward exploring the rest of their music. This is a shame.

Over the last few years, it has become harder and harder for energetic and poppy bands to gain widespread recognition and acclaim because of a glut of similar acts vying for mainstream appeal and fame. While it’s tough to say that OK Go has been marginalized any more than any other similar band – think The Thrills and Phantom Planet – it’s still a small injustice to the millions who might’ve heard them and loved them if only pop radio was a little kinder when constructing song rotations. Pretty simply, OK Go is as best as you’re going to get if pop rock is what you want.

They are everything that a pop rock band could be – shaggy-haired guys singing shaggy-haired and enduringly upbeat tunes that are fun the first and fiftieth time you listen to them.

OK Go’s first studio offering, the self-titled “OK Go,” was not intended to be the band’s first album. Apparently, the band pulled a Green Day and recorded an entire album just to decide to scrap it and record a brand new one. The new set of songs we’ve received is a stellar offering from the Chicago band with plenty of range to the tone and feel of the tracks. They’ve found a way to be smart but not overly self-important, fun without sounding stupid and shallow. Indeed, it seems that the boys have made sure they’ve learned from the best, with the most obvious element of the album being its heavy draw on the band’s musical influences – groups such as Weezer, Cheap Trick and the Beach Boys.

Sure, maybe it sounds a little bit too over-produced and radio ready, but aren’t there are enough artsy and introspective bands to satisfy even the most needy pseudo-intellectual and discerning listener? OK Go gives us a little less in the deep meaning arena and a lot more in the raucous sound and energy department that’ll actually get us humming along to the beat.

“Oh No,” their second studio album, was recorded in Malmo, Sweden with the help of Tore Johansson, who produced the similar sounding record of Franz Ferdinand. After a listen it is clear that “Oh No” does not suffer from the sophomore slump. It has a natural feel, stripped a bit of the first record’s polish, but still packing in the hooks.

The record is balanced. It features the typical number of total party songs with chorus words anchored on a few shouts of “hey,” but it also adds more subtle tunes that really show their strength after a few listens, when you start looking for what’s on the record beyond the quick-appealing pop rock standards. Also – and this is a good thing – it’s tough to find a favorite song on the record. Each one is exciting and fun, and you’ll likely find that each listen brings a new favorite song to play on repeat. Right now it’s “No Sign of Life,” with its desperate message masked by crashing guitars and a lyrical performance that jumps between near-scream and subdued reflection.

The Show is tonight. OK Go will be there. You should go. At worst it’ll be an evening of infectious music that’ll be entertaining to witness live. At best it might get you dancing to a band you didn’t know existed a few weeks ago.