OK Go's self-titled debut is a full-throttle, no-holds-barred pop/rock candy dispenser programmed to seize the attentions and affections of its customers through the sheer intoxicating power of its confections. Nearly every track has the sound of a smoldering powerhouse radio single: tireless charismatic energy, unforgettable hooks and harmonies, electric guitars ablaze in a tightly controlled house fire, and lyrics carved with razor-sharp sarcastic wit. If the album seems like a thinly veiled attempt to conquer the world, well, why not? The members of OK Go clearly have the goods to make themselves wildly famous and monumentally wealthy without altering their fundamental character. After all, their chief operating principle seems to be that rock music can be smart and fun at once. In addition to their self-evident appeal to the adolescent consumers who rule pop radio -- they have the raw sex appeal of the Backstreet Boys, the ebullient energy of Hanson, and the wacky alternative rock vibe of Weezer -- OK Go has also established an ability to attract intellectual adult modern rock fans. National Public Radio celebrities Ira Glass and Gretchen Helfrich are enthusiastic supporters of the band, and geek rock king John Flansburgh (They Might Be Giants) was so impressed by OK Go that he became the group's manager. Their harmonies often draw from Queen, and their biting lyrics ("you could've been a genius if you had an axe to grind") sometimes recall Elvis Costello. OK Go recorded an edgier, more inventive version of this record, but discarded it out of fear that it would be labeled as an art rock act. This version is direct, unpretentious, and eminently radio-ready (Glen Ballard would approve). But it relies on relatively simple musicianship, leaving the impression of a talented band held temporarily in check by its commercial aspirations. These are great songs. But it seems the OK Go game plan is to make sure the world's been conquered before the group puts together a truly great album.
Evan Cater, Rovi