x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Of the Blue Colour of the Sky: OK Go

OK Go channel the 1980s, and in particular Prince, on their new CD.

If you've ever ventured on to YouTube, the chances are you'll have come across OK Go. The Chicago four-piece's homemade video for their 2006 single Here It Goes Again - in which the band undertook an expertly choreographed dance routine on moving treadmills - has been viewed a staggering 50 million times. But despite scoring one of the top viral hits of all time, the power-poppers managed to sit out the last half of the decade almost entirely.

Of the Blue Colour of the Sky is their attempt at proving they are as impressive with musical instruments as gym equipment. Apparently they decided the best way to do this was to invoke the remarkable emotional power and danceability of Prince. The opener WTF?, with its throbbing bass line and crashing drums sounds at first like Kasabian, but within its first minute, the guitar begins to strongly resemble something from either Purple Rain or Sign o' the Times. The track's "there's just this thing about ya" refrain and woo-ing backing vocals are also dead giveaways.

The second track, This Too Shall Pass, returns to the band's more familiar indie-rock territory, with little sign of the opener's sleazy funk. Needing/Getting evokes the ghosts of power-pop past, as does Built to Spill. Its retro-guitar quickly turns into a wall of noise, yet the whole thing is somewhat remarkably tied together with a catchy chorus. But before long however, hints of the Purple One return. The jammed-out noodling and crooned chorus of Skyscrapers are perhaps the album's most heavily influenced moments. Although more than a little derivative, they're also rather effective.

Things don't get more 1980s than End Love, a pleading ballad underscored by an electronic loop and a marching Depeche Mode rhythm section. Then, with Before the Earth Was Round - which sounds like ELO on heavy sedatives - it begins to feel like there are few ideas here that haven't been done many times before. A number of the album's final songs feel like afterthoughts. The acoustic ballad Last Leaf certainly isn't irritating, but it feels out of place on a record primarily made up of groove numbers. Similarly, Back from Katmandu has both the sound and memorableness of a Britpop album track. The record's closer, In the Glass, is rather triumphant, however, bursting into life with a horror-movie organ sound then building with a thumping bass line and eventually exploding in glorious thundering smashes of drums.

Of the Blue Colour of the Sky is the band's most musically accomplished and versatile album, but at times it is painfully reliant on what has gone before it. Although it can be good fun to hear their take on 1980s balladry, much of OK Go's sense of humour and refreshing optimism is lost amid all the melodrama. Maybe they're saving it for their next music video?