With an earth-shattering kick drum and bass to die for, OK Go launches into “WTF?” and boots off Of the Blue Colour of the Sky, offering the first of several nods to Prince. Unfortunately, the rest of the record never reaches the glorious heights of its first track and lead single.
Chicago’s OK Go is probably still best known for their Grammy-winning video for “Here It Goes Again.” Taken in a single continuous take, the video famously featured the band dancing on treadmills.
For the all the band’s innovation in the form of music videos, that innovation never quite seemed to leak on to Oh No and it’s also sadly lacking on their third and latest album. Of the Blue Colour of the Sky has trouble finding its own legs and each song (even the better ones) hovers over the work of other artists without offering signs of OK Go’s own originality.
That’s not to say that there aren’t some fun moments on the record, of course, as the energy of Damian Kulash Jr. (vocals, guitars, programming, percussion), Tim Nordwind (bass), Andy Ross (guitars, keyboards), and Dan Konopka (drums) is well captured thanks to the Dave Fridmann production.
Still, there’s something about Of the Blue Colour of the Sky that just doesn’t catch.
The record claims to be a concept album based on Augustus James Pleasonton’s weird and obscure work, The Influence of the Blue Ray of the Sunlight and of the Blue Colour of the Sky. Any thread of a concept seems more related to Purple Rain than it does Pleasonton’s work, however.
With this record, OK Go seems convinced that they need to change styles as often as possible to stay relevant. They approach things as a band full in the knowledge of their popularity in the wishy-washy world of music videos and this winds up giving things a gloss of hesitancy and apprehension.
Prince is mined almost relentlessly, with the aforementioned 5/4 time of “WTF?” making for the best track on the record and “White Knuckles” carrying the theme to its logical conclusion. Kulash Jr. even reaches for Prince’s renowned falsetto to try to put some weight on “Skyscrapers” but it just comes up empty and bland.
Other cuts find OK Go digging around with Flaming Lips-esque space rock ("Back from Kathmandu") or U2’s arena anthem shtick (“All is Not Lost”).
This lack of personal identity really winds up hurting OK Go in the end, as Of the Blue Colour of the Sky comes off like an excuse to pile through other, better artists. While the sheer fun of some of the pieces is as distracting as necessary, the bold truth about this record is that it just isn’t inventive enough to be memorable.