Of the Blue Colour of the Sky – OK Go

Of the Blue Colour of the Sky

OK Go

Capitol Records

2010

Let me get this off my chest.  I liked OK Go before they got popular.  Before treadmills, before “Here it Goes Again” was heard everywhere, before they had songs of TV commercials, before any of that.  Albeit, I heard of them slightly before that second album came out, I still consider OK Go to be a band that I found on my own without hearing about them beforehand. 

Point is, I have a soft spot for the band.  I like their music videos, I like that they got weirdly popular really fast, I even like that their image is a huge ripoff of Cheap Trick.  And I was looking forward to a new album after Oh No slightly disappointed me.  And then… I started hearing about it.  I heard their first single was going to be called “WTF” and, honestly, I balked.  Without knowing anything about the song or the new album, I thought to myself, “Well, OK Go is obviously pandering.  They want to keep their popularity and mainstream audience, and so they’re going to use terms that annoying twelve-year olds say on a regular basis.” 

Whether or not this is true is yet to be seen.  What is factual though, is that this new album has really confounded me.  They completely disregard their former musical style.  The power pop that was so apparent on their first two albums has now taken a backseat to electronic funk.  It’s still their, just more as a reminder that they’re ignoring it rather than embracing it.  To sum up the album (before I even get into it), it sounds like Cheap Trick meets Prince.

Take “WTF” for example (which is actually a pretty good song despite its annoyingly adolescent title).  The fuzz bass is the main instrument (as on most songs) with the guitar only taking a minor role.  But the biggest change is Kulash’s vocals which have gone from an aggressive power pop style now to a breathy falsetto voice.  “WTF” is insanely catchy with funk chords, hand claps, and nice background vocals.  I don’t think the lyrics make too much sense (“It’s like a sky dive, I’m gettin’ high” are two lines from the chorus), but these don’t matter much.  The guitar solo is also strange for the band as it sounds more electronic (as well with everything else).  More than anything this song sets the musical tone for the rest of the album.

“This Too Shall Pass” is a decent song, although it would be easily forgettable if it wasn’t the second song on the album.  Konopka’s drums are great here, pounding without being overbearing.  After repeating the chorus of “When the morning comes” about a thousand or so times, the band breaks down into a harmony which includes the title in the lyrics.  If the song was any better, it would be a really cool trick, but the song just kind of floats by being ignorable.

“All is Not Lost” unfortunately gets the same fate as the previous track.  The words are unintelligible.  This is either because Kulash is mumbling or the vocals are mixed horribly with the production.  Or both.  Oh, it’s also a very bass heavy track (not a good thing, as the bass sounds distorted).

This leads into the better track “Needing/Getting.”  Again, fuzz bass.  Again very little guitar besides the beginning (which gets repeated as a lame riff, but still…).  Again pretty awesome drums.  The lyrics are actually pretty good this time around (“Needing is one thing, and getting, getting’s another”)  The band finally pulls off that cool trick of breaking down to harmonize on vocals.  It’s definitely a highlight of the album.  Even with its chaotic guitar noise lead-in to a mellow acoustic guitar.  Ok, I’ll take back what I said about a lack of guitars.

“Skyscrapers” is the slow song that feels like it could stop at any moment because of its lack of momentum.  Tim Nordwind’s bass has a pretty cool line to follow which serves as the block of the song.  Kulash’s vocals again turn into his falsetto wimpy voice, but actually work well on this song – contrasted by the annoying backup vocals by Nordwind and Ross.  Kulash, however, breaks out of that to give a passionate performance marked by half-screaming.  Once you get past the annoying new style that OK Go has adopted, “Skyscrapers” actually comes across as a pretty good song.

This is followed by “White Knuckles” which could be the best song on Of the Colour.  The drums take the lead pounding as the fuzz bass joins in and electronic guitars.  But during the verse, the instruments mainly drop out, leaving Kulash’s best vocal execution.  It’s the only song that could actually get a listener pumped up.  The backup vocals are awesome, and the electronic sounds actually work to progress the song.  And the guitar solo (again sounding very electronic, almost Freeze Popish) is mind-blowing in its interpretation.  Lastly, this could be OK Go’s best line ever: “Everybody needs to sleep at night, everybody needs a crutch.”

Unfortunately, the album has reached its peak and the rest is rather boring.  “I Want You So Bad I Can’t Breathe” is decent, but falls to make a huge impression after “White Knuckles.”  The bass is again good, and the drums are solid (like normal).  However, the lyrics fail to be interesting.  With this title and the music accompanying it, I would love for this song to be about stalking.  Which it might be, but I doubt it.  With lyrics like “And running through the subway to catch the uptown train and spend the night just dancing” they let me down.  Big time.  Kulash’s vocals don’t even match the passion that he had on “Skyscrapers.”  The song is just ok.

“End Love” is stupid disco rehash.  Enough said.

“Before the Earth Was Round” uses an Auto-Tuner.  Meh.  Because that’s not over used.  They could’ve used it for a more interesting song at least.  I’m just saying. 

After the false start, “Last Leaf” begins, a normal acoustic ballad.  The song is pretty, but doesn’t fit on the album at all.  Luckily, it’s short.

“Back from Katmandu” actually has a really cool intro, and really heavy drums.  The song is pretty good, listening to it now.  It sounds more developed than most of the other songs.  Kind of distant actually.  Which is an aspect that has so far eluded the band.  Everything they’ve done until now is completely upfront and easy to grasp.  Even with the other songs of this album which have been a departure from their music style, they’ve still made them easily accessible.  But this song sounds more difficult.  There’s even strings (which could just be a keyboard, but it’s a good effect).  So, this song is actually a highlight.  However, it might be too late in the album’s song list to make a difference.

Track twelve is “While You Were Asleep,” beginning with annoying computerized sounds.  The song is pretty much just slow and boring and electronic.  Disappointment again occurs.

Lastly is “In the Glass” which begins with piano, before jumping into giant keyboards, bass, and drums.  It’s sounds, I don’t know.  More Hip-Hop than OK Go should.  At least the music does.  Maybe.  Hmmm… I don’t really know how to explain this one.  It’s not really Hip-Hop.  Screw it, I still don’t enjoy it and that’s enough.

Of the Blue Colour of the Sky has a track listing which is pretty much half good and half bad.  Overall, I really wasn’t expecting this drastic of a change from one album to another.  It was hinted at in older songs such as “Shortly Before the End” and the falsetto-ridden “Oh, Lately It’s So Quiet,” but to redefine one’s musical style takes balls (which leads me to the joke that with his new vocalizations, Kulash sounds like he doesn’t have any.  But that’s a cheap shot, and I won’t take it.).  And with this in mind, I’m proud of them.  They’ve taken a huge step for developing their band.  While Oh No was more of the same power pop sounds featured on their first album, here they take their music to another level.  Most bands refuse to develop their sound at all, but OK Go are showing that they are not afraid to experiment a little – even if it means that they’ll fail to make it work.  While a lot of the songs on Of the Blue Colour are annoying or stupid, the band has been able to create a style of music which extends to their previous style.  While I may not like a lot of it, it’s a mature step that had to have been taken.

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