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OK Go Shows Maturity, Versatility with ‘Of The Blue Colour of the Sky’

Andy Seroff | Monday, January 18, 2010

The Los Angeles-based band OK Go credits YouTube for much of their recent success, with their intricate, one-take music videos for “A Million Ways” and the ever-popular “Here It Goes Again” (The Treadmill Dance) receiving tens of millions of views. Their latest effort, “Of the Blue Colour of the Sky,” certainly wanders from the band’s arena-rock, nerd-pop style of their previous albums, but they don’t forfeit the charm of their music videos. The CD was produced by Dave Fridmann, most famous for his work with the Flaming Lips, and his influence is certainly present.
The first single, “WTF?” is a stylistic bridge between OK Go’s old identity and the new, mellowed persona of the band. The airy track contrasts characteristic OK Go features like stop-time, falsetto background vocals and miscellaneous percussion against a scratchy bass, funk guitar lines and spastic guitar solos, all over a 5/4 time. The result is a track that tries to offer the best of both worlds and satisfies in neither — but not without offering a satisfying exposition into the album. The music video for “WTF?” reinforces its role as a stylistically transitional track by maintaining the typical one-take shot of the band members dancing, but the use of stop-imagery adds a psychedelic nature to their personality. The band also appears much more relaxed, strolling on stage, even playing with beach balls on set, as opposed to hustling to positions in their previous dance videos.
Just as the listener gets oriented in the album’s new direction, it heads back to classic arena rock mode with “This Too Shall Pass.” In true OK Go fashion, the sound is huge with massive depths surrounding the focal parts — the similarly pitched toy piano and lead vocals. The song dances between intensities, alternating between heavy head banging and drum and “ooh” breaks, before settling down for the bridge. It ends with both materials overlapped, resulting in a chorus of equal parts joy and power. The music video for this track is certainly worth a view, which features the track reworked for accordion, xylophone, a children’s chorus and the Notre Dame Marching Band, outfitted in generic marching band outfits and gilly suits. The video is charming and, of course, in one take, but more importantly, the Band’s timbre and vigor compliment the style of the piece so much that this alternate version might be superior to the CD take.
The middle tracks of the album return to the sound founded in “WTF?” with more sound droning and vocal reverberation than catchy and clean guitar licks and downbeats. The fourth track, “Needing/Getting” is the culmination of these instrumental motives, featuring masterful guitar and drum work. The song exemplifies the result of the synchronization of Fridmann’s influence with OK Go’s sound, especially the background sampling of “It’s A Disaster,” off of their last full album, “Oh No” (at 4:22 for the audiophile Easter-egg hunters).
The last tracks deserving mention are “Before the Earth was Round” and “Last Leaf,” which I place together because of their differences rather than their similarities. The two songs, appearing in the ninth and 10th positions, display the versatility of the band’s new direction. First, a heavily syncopated and synthesized track, anthropomorphizing the sky as an entity confused about itself, followed by a simple, but equally beautiful acoustic love song using the Earth and the seasons as metaphor. The result — a band with unfounded versatility. With this latest release I was hoping for another album like “Oh No,” filled with arena-rock riffs and memorable lyrics, and at first I was disappointed. But with a second listen, “Of the Blue Colour of the Sky,” proved to be the showcase of the stylistic range of a maturing rock quartet.