October 5, 2006

OK Good

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OK Go seems to be taking over the world nowadays. They have the most downloaded video on YouTube (“A Million Ways” has over 9 million downloads to date) as well as the fastest downloaded video (“Here It Goes Again” was downloaded 1 million times in its first six days on YouTube.) After these statistics became apparent to the head honchos at MTV — who generally subscribe to the theory that people don’t actually want to see music videos, especially not ones by artists who aren’t Nick Lachey or Young Joc —- OK Go performed their “Here It Goes Again” treadmill dance on the MTV VMA’s and finally got the national media coverage that they didn’t even seem to need. Somebody at Capitol Records’ marketing department sure deserves a cookie.
Damian Kulash, OK Go’s baby-faced 31-year-old frontman, made an appearance on the cheeky but highly influential Colbert Report this last August 23 to discuss the relevance of YouTube and how it has catapulted OK Go from their under the radar status to performing on one of MTV’s most highly viewed programs of the year. Colbert, as usual, shot Kulash the hard-hitting questions, such as that even though people know who OK Go is now, does that translate into record sales?
It appears like it has. “Here It Goes Again” and “A Million Ways” have been mainstays on iTunes’ music store’s top music videos and top singles lists, and their newest album Oh No has been on the top album list consistently for many weeks now since it dropped in August. “Here It Goes Again” currently holds the top spot on the video list. And hey, if their ten dollar backyard home video sensation isn’t getting them enough publicity, they’re probably pretty confident that their opening gig for reigning indie rock kings Death Cab for Cutie this November will do the trick.
Although you don’t get the pleasure of watching the two mop-topped and the two bald members of OK Go risking their lives shimmying and sashaying on treadmills while listening to Oh No, you still do get the full effect of this band’s irreverent power-punk-pop.
The first cut on the album, titled “Invincible,” starts off, “When they finally come to destroy the earth, they’ll have to go through you first./ I bet they won’t be expecting that./ When they finally come to destroy the earth, they’ll have to deal with you first,/ and now my money says they won’t know about the/ thousand Fahrenheit hot metal lights behind your eyes. Invincible.(oh oh oh oh)…” Dealing with the same subject matter, the song is everything the movie My Super Ex-Girlfriend was not: funny and actually good.
“Do What You Want” is oddly familiar because it was all over JCPenney’s summer marketing campaign. OK Go’s handlers have created a certifiable marketing juggernaut for them; everywhere you go they seem to be. This cut is just as jovial and poppy as the rest of the album: simple guitar riffs, foot-tappable beats, and if you have a fever and all you need is more cowbell, you’ll even get some of that in the bridge of this song. “It’s a Disaster,” “A Good Idea at the Time,” and the two singles “Here It Goes Again” and “A Million Ways” are all other great examples of this recipe for contagion OK Go has perfected.
The whole album pretty much follows the same formula as “Do What You Want,” and “Invincible,” but it succeeds because each simple guitar riff is different enough from the last that the songs don’t sound repetitive. Anyone can dance to any song on Oh No, as the band has clearly demonstrated through their music videos. The songs’ lyrics are surprisingly clever and somewhat complex, however, in contrast to their simpler beats and melodies.
Lead singer Kulash is a fellow Ivy Leaguer, having graduated from Brown in 1998 with a concentration in art-semiotics. Much comparison has been made between him and Rivers Cuomo of Weezer, a Harvard man. Both have an impressive academic pedigree and they specialize in “geeky” power-pop-punk, catchy tunes with some obscure lyrical references hidden between simple refrains. In “Do What You Want,” Kulash sings “Me, I was raised amid the trickle-down days/ I woke up numb in the haze,” before the chorus, “Come on, come on./ Do what you want./ What could go wrong?/ Oh come on come on come on,”…simple enough. Kulash has also said he is a fan of indie-pop-punk marvels and masters of obscure cultural and historical lyrics references Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, one of OK Go’s counterparts on the 2006 Death Cab tour.
OK Go is a record company’s dream: they have charm, they produce catchy melodies, and somewhat unexpectedly, they have talent too. If the rumors are true and Weezer breaks up, OK Go could eventually become the preeminent scholars of geek punk.