OK Go listen to ‘Hungry Ghosts’
Jimmy Kemper | Wednesday, October 15, 2014
In a career about 12 years long, OK Go has released a surprisingly small number of albums.
It has been four years since 2010’s “Of the Blue Colour of the Sky.” OK Go has held fans over with a spattering of singles and EPs, including this year’s “Upside Out.” “Upside Out” was a varied effort with little holding it together, as it combined elements from a number of different genres.
On its latest album, “Hungry Ghosts,” OK Go narrowed its focus, concentrating on synth-rock while occasionally including some disco elements and throwbacks to the band’s classic power-pop sound to keep things fresh. Although keyboards have been instrumental to OK Go’s sound since the group’s debut, it is rather shocking to hear Tim Nordwind totally ditch his bass guitar for the majority of the album. Overall, this is a non-issue because when OK Go focuses on developing strong lyrics and melody, the songs work well.
The highlight tracks of the album focus on these elements, and the reward is a variety of awesome songs to jam out to. The opener, “Upside Down & Inside Out,” catches the listener by surprise with its massive drums, guitars and crazy synthesizers. The chorus is cranked to the maximum with stuttered distortion on the vocals for the latter half of the song. The song surpasses expectations during the two contrast sections in which the volume lessens, and most of the instrumentation drops out to focus on Damien Kulash’s vocals and a basic synthesizer accompaniment. “The One Moment,” with its open piano chords and loud-soft-loud construction, is definitely the climax of the album.
Even when the band sacrifices those loud, fun and catchy choruses for something smaller, slower and quieter, OK Go still pulls together quality songs. “Another Set of Issues” focuses on Kulash’s strong falsetto and a simple arrangement with synth bass, sporadic chimes and a basic drum beat. The slinky “Obsession” nails a sketchy, creepy tone with a conglomeration of distorted, fuzzy guitar, synth tones, a consistent kick drum beat and a dash of Latin percussion. Kulash’s near-whispered vocals are unprecedented and successful.
Unfortunately, not all the songs on this album manage to work out in a good way. I may have fallen asleep the first time I heard “I’m Not Through,” as the slower, synthier strategy did not work on this track. “I’m Not Through” is a funk-style track with classic video game synths mixed in. The song is limited by unmemorable lyrics and a dead falsetto chorus. Even with a heavily distorted disco-feeling guitar solo, the song lacks the essential passionate, melodic drive that makes an OK Go song work.
Similarly weak is “Bright as Your Eyes,” which starts with a quirky, oscillating synth drone but rapidly collapses into a nauseating, cheesy chorus. And big, empty rocker “Turn Up the Radio” is definitely receiving my vote for least inspired lyrics of 2014 with “Turn up the radio / Turn out the lights” among other forgettable lyrics.
These songs feel mediocre and forgettable at best. In spite of these flaws, OK Go crafted a decent album. Although “Hungry Ghosts” probably will not be on anybody’s album-of-the-year list, OK Go has crafted something fun, exciting and enjoyable to listen to.
All we can hope for now is a couple more innovative music videos for “Hungry Ghosts” that we can share with all our cool friends online.