Review Summary: OK Go’s debut is your typical party album, but it also provides some unexpected depth.
OK Go has quickly constructed a reputation for being light-hearted, fun, catchy, and even goofy. The music video for 2005’s “Here It Goes Again”, featuring multiple treadmills, made it clear that the band likes to have a little fun. While each album in their discography provides a few of these moments, they are easily the most abundant on OK Go’s self titled debut. From the humorous but angry “Don’t Ask Me” to the all-out ridiculousness of “C-C-C-Cinnamon Lips” OK Go
is an entertaining ride from start to finish.
If there is one immediately identifiable weakness with OK Go
it is that the record is extremely front-loaded; that is, the best songs are done before the middle of the album. “Get Over It” kicks things off by bursting the self-pitying bubble of its listeners, with verses of Your wounds are full of salt, everything's a stress and what's more, well it's all somebody's fault
and Ain't it just a bitch? What a pain...Well it's all a crying shame. What left to do but complain? Better find someone to blame
. While loved by fans and Madden enthusiasts everywhere (it was a key cog in the soundtrack of the 2003 release), the song actually spreads a good message. Girlfriend dump you? Didn’t get the grade you wanted on that exam? The advice OK Go gives you is to get up, rub some dirt on it, and focus on what can
be done. Not bad for an alternative pop-rock band that made a mock-serious “how to become a table tennis champion” video. “Don’t Ask Me” is by far the catchiest of the twelve songs, with heavy synth, a drum beat that really pops, and Damian Kulash’s sarcasm-drowned vocals. “You’re So Damn Hot” and “What to Do” continue the album in the same vein; joking and borderline-serious tunes that are just meant to be an easy, memorable listen. “What to Do”, in particular, sets itself apart from some of the album’s other popular songs with a more relaxed approach and a chorus featuring a rather chilled-out vibe: What to do? Sweetheart, you'll find mediocre people do exceptional things all the time
As I previously mentioned, the album does have times where it treads the line between “just amusing” and “actually meaningful”. “Return” is one of those instances, with lyrics that seem to suggest the tragic death of somebody who was too young to go: You were supposed to grow old
. The chorus repeats the line several times, with increasing intensity and anguish in Kulash’s voice with each successive reiteration. The lyrics also contain a sad, telling admission in the line, “the worst of it now: I can't remember your face.” This line refers to how we tend to lose a mental image of people who pass away, at least to a partial extent. No matter how close the person may have been to your heart, it is an inescapable facet of human memory, and one that Kulash laments on in several parts of “Return.” Not all listeners will read that deeply into each song, but for those who do, there are emotional diamond-in-the-rough moments to be found.
For the most part, however, OK Go
is an album that chugs along with the fun-all-the-time/party theme that you would expect from the band. Although the quality of the songs dies off significantly in the latter half, “C-C-C-Cinnamon Lips” is a prime example of a late album find. With a heavily synthesized introduction and absurd lyrics along the same lines as the title, the song harks back to the pysch-pop formulas popular in the 1960’s. “Hello My Treacherous Friends” is another intriguing track, as it manages to really separate itself musically and structurally from the other eleven songs. Kulash’s vocals are more hushed and conversational, and the song features a brief but uncharacteristic guitar solo towards the end. Unfortunately, the majority of the final 6-8 songs get the filler tag, as they are not catchy enough to be memorable and are not interesting enough to warrant repeat listens.
In the end, OK Go’s debut of the same name is a strong introduction for the band. Every song they present here is upbeat (even the ones with more depressing meanings) and there are plenty of big hits to anchor the album in your library. It may not be highly technical
and it certainly isn’t an instrumental wonder, but OK Go
has just the right blend of accessibility, catchiness, and underlying meaning to make you want to come back for more.