I bought this album fully expecting it to receive a 7/10 rating. [I know, bad form for a review.] I was pleasantly surprised: it deserves at least a 7.5. Ok Go’s self titled 2002 debut was a pleasant shock to my belief [at the time] that good music must be melancholy. Their pop rock was infectious and danceable and catchy and I didn’t feel guilty about liking it.
Oh No is a slightly different beast than Ok Go was. It’s perhaps more sophisticated, if that’s a term that can be used to describe pop rock. When I say that, though, I suppose I mean they know what the audience expects of the band rather than that they’ve stretched their artistic limitations. The lyrics aren’t so clever that you can’t sing along the second time you hear the songs, but you know the quartet put some thought into what they were writing. The songs seem like jilt pop [does that even need its own designation?], lyrics in the vein of "stay away from me you crazy bitch" contrasted with the upbeat delivery and arrangements. [By the way, they don't actually say that on the record.]
The album begins nearly flawlessly. The production is crisp as Ok Go channels Hot Hot Heat and Blur’s power and familiarity. "Invincible" has the raw energy you’d expect to drive a road-trip or a football game. "Here It Goes Again" juxtaposes the pleasantly familiar [a beat reminiscent of Gorillaz’s “Punk”] with unpleasantly recognizable ["just when you think you’ve had enough, here it goes again”]. Handclappers "A Good Idea At The Time" and "Oh Lately It’s So Quiet" probably couldn’t be more catchy if the band traded their guitars for nets.
The final few songs, on the other hand, are less obviously aimed at the same goal. This is not to say that the songs aren’t good – they certainly grew on me. But the reckless fun that infuses "Invincible" is replaced by more serious and subdued tones by the time "Maybe, This Time" and "The House Wins" appear. The last songs have to get by solely on charm instead of energy. Fortunately, they succeed at doing so.
Some would criticize Ok Go for not being more adventurous – much of the material from this album could have appeared on the last disk. But I have to give them credit for knowing what it takes to produce a record that ensnares listeners with songs that feel both Zip-Lock fresh and bubble gum familiar.
Release date: August 30, 2005
Rating: 7.5 / 10
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