Whatever happened to the “ooh-ooh-ooh’s” and the “na-na-na’s?” They ended up in some of the catchiest songs on the new album from OK Go, Oh No. (How’s that title for clever, eh?) C’mon, admit it, you secretly loved “Get Over It.” The song was cleverly written, as catchy as hell, and had Damian Kulash’s endearing lisp, even though you may have tired of its incessant playing on MTV (which is odd considering I hardly ever see videos on the channel anymore). “What to Do,” also from the band’s debut, ended up sitting alongside some heavyweight songs in Nick Hornby’s Songbook, and they covered the Zombies’ “This Will Be Our Year” for The Future Soundtrack of America magnificently. The band straddles the divide between teen popularity and adult indie rock credibility with ease and Oh No ups the ante significantly.
“Invincible” is somewhat a sister song to a verse in “Get Over It,” itself an indictment of a vain girl, the former the same as Kulash sings that if an alien invasion were to come to Earth, they’d have to go through her first. The aforementioned “ooh-ooh-ooh’s” and “na-na-na’s” make their first appearance in this song to great effect. “Do What You Want” is the first single, and is worthy enough, but strangely, not one of the strongest songs on the album. “Here It Goes Again,” its successor, is brasher and could easily find airplay. At times sounding like a sequel to Billy Joel’s “It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me” and at others like an Elvis Costello circa This Year’s Model track, the song is energetic, fun and danceable. My favorite song on the album comes in “Oh Lately It’s So Quiet,” which is the first line from the song which could have been called “Haunted.” Slow and sweet with Kulash’s wonderful falsetto, the song is equal parts Jackson, from Joe Jackson’s “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” to Jackson Browne’s “Somebody’s Baby.” This would have been my pick for the breakout single by a longshot. And mark these words if it actually does up being released as one!
Another great one is “Let it Rain,” another sweet one with a semi-falsetto. Its chorus of “Hallelujah, let it rain, let it pour” is infectious. The two songs share a lot of similarities and maybe that’s why I like them both, or maybe it has something to do with the fact that the pair deftly break up a fast paced, post-punk dance party feel, making them stand out even more. Either way, they’ll both end up on some of my home mixes, as will “Maybe, This Time” and “The House Wins.” OK Go manage to somehow blend the witticism evident in both Costello and They Might Be Giants with the homage-ish rock of Franz Ferdinand and make it work. Quirky and accessible don’t have to be mutually exclusive! Hooray!
Capitol pulled out all the stops for this Chicago band. They recruited producer Tore Johansson for Oh No, who brought everything by the Cardigans and the debut album from Franz Ferdinand to dizzying heights. Adding in the engineering work of Dave Sardy, himself an accomplished producer in his own right, having helmed the latest album by the Walkmen and songs with the Dandy Warhols, only ensured the imminent success of this album and the band. One can hear the Franz influence on tracks like “It’s a Disaster” and “A Million Ways” particularly. Each one of those songs, like the earlier tracks, show that OK Go is consistently good throughout the album.
OK Go are touring small venues right now, but look for all that to change after the release of this pop collection. With the release of the band’s debut, they garnered fans such as This American Life‘s Ira Glass, hip writer Nick Hornby and They Might Be Giants’ John Flansburgh who actually became their manager for a time! Soon everyone will find what these men have found, that OK Go is a really fun band that writes clever lyrics to complement magnificent songwriting.