Rockin' Our Turntable: OK Go 'Hungry Ghosts'
By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 16, 2014 7:30PM
OK Go's Damien Kulash, photo by Jim Kopeny / Tankboy
It's been four years since the last OK Go album and when asked by an audience member at a recent Chicago show what took them so long, singer Damien Kulash said since it took them months to put together their videos, just think how much longer it takes to write their songs. OK Go writes songs that are just as intricate and field crafted as the videos they've grown famous for, and like their visual work the final music is breathtaking even as it seems to seamlessly and perfectly unfold itself. On Hungry Ghosts, out this week, all that hard work is obvious, but only insomuch as the songs sound perfectly ensconced in their own skin.
Musically the band has further tightened their mixture of brainy pop with touches of limb-twitching funk flourishes. Simply said, it's a slinky evolution of their dance rock with plenty of Paisley Park overtones. The band slips in stylistic nods to impressions of the past; we dare you not to envision an 80s high school movie prom scene when you hear "The Writing's On The Wall" with it's resigned yet tense vocals and sine wave of a bass line. But for the most part Hungry Ghosts sounds like an album only OK Go could make, which makes it doubly remarkable when most bands simply map much of their own path over obvious acts from the past. In our opinion it's this sonic proof that separates the good from the great.
Lyrically, OK Go takes things a step further than in the past and the entire album carries an emotional thread connected to an unceasing pursuit of another's love. But this is no story of a Lothario racking up conquests. Instead, every song is driven by longing or desperation for something real. "I Won't Let You Down" promises that, should the object of the singer's affection just trust them they'll, well, never let them down. The aforementioned "The Writing's On The Wall" is a search to recover the magic that's left a relationship with the sincere hope that love will win out. "The One Moment" is all about begging a love to focus on holding onto the split-second of amorous combustion that starts off an epic affair with the hope the moment will trump all that may go wrong in the future. Its thematic counterpart "The Great Fire" deals with wondering if all this chasing and begging and pleading is worth it once the initial spark and flame of infatuation burns out to leave a pile of rubble and ash. Is there still something smoldering deep beneath that wreckage that points to a possible rekindling of emotions? The album closer "Lullaby" doesn't answer that hanging question, but it does offer a glimmer of optimism.
Two themes twirl around each other. As the song's characters chase the prospect of quenching an inner fire through ginning the attention of the object of their affections, the band itself turns up the heat by ensuring the accompanying music is so tight and well-constructed that it burns with its own inner intensity. This combination not only makes OK Go's Hungry Ghosts well worth the wait, it's one of the most complete and satisfying works of the band's career.