In “Hungry Ghosts,” its first release since 2010’s “Of the Blue Colour of the Sky,” the Chicago-based alternative rock band broadens its scope to include disco, electronic music and dubstep, but in doing so may have lost its focus.
Within one song, the listener can be pulled in multiple musical directions at once, a feeling that straddles the fine line between a thrilling roller coaster ride and whiplash.
Long gone is the guitar-driven power pop that helped make the band famous; while its trademark punchy overdrive is still present, it can get lost in a dense soundscape teeming with loud keyboards, loud drums and loud electronic noises.
In other words, this is a loud, arguably overproduced album, which is not an inherently bad thing, but one of the record’s most endearing aspects—its earnest, existential lyrics—can be unfairly quieted by comparison.
Take, for example, the album’s fun lead single, “Writings on the Wall.” The song features a breezy, poppy sound juxtaposed with somewhat introspective and melancholic, yet ultimately hopeful lyrics.
Classic OK Go.
The main difference here is that it is a more sonically dense sound than what it would have released in its earlier days. Every instrument has multiple effects, and it can be too much for a listener to handle at times.
OK Go seemed committed to filling each song to the sonic brim, which works well on such songs as the opener, “Upside Down and Inside Out,” a rocking track that is clearly meant to be a bombastic marriage of MGMT to pop rock, or the spirited anthem “The One Moment,” which would not be out of place on a Killers record.
But for a song like “Lullaby,” which was clearly meant to be the album’s quietest and most minimal song, the overproduction still makes it come across as inappropriately loud.
However, credit must be given where credit is due, and OK Go deserves recognition for how much it’s stretched its musical and lyrical creativity with this release.
It is by no means a bad album—each song has something unique and often surprising to offer fans of OK Go, new or old.
At times, it may stretch too far, it may be overdone and it may veer a little off course. But the bottom line is that it is interesting and unique and unlike anything OK Go has produced so far. Consider this ghost hungry for more.
Favorite Track: “If I Had a Mountain”
PHOTO: Ok Go promotional