Soul is not a pose; by its very nature it cannot be faked. So why then are the members of OK Go
, lovable as they are, trying to pass themselves off as hip with this sad excuse for an album? Damian Kulash might have a tender falsetto that makes for some pleasant listening, but he and the rest of his white-bread goon squad are delicate, not soulful. Which renders Hungry Ghosts
, an album that tries to trick the listener into dancing by use of trite musical tropes and numerous sonic shorthands, as asinine as any parody.
The band's problem is that they don't seem to understand just what makes dance music move the listener. They know what it's supposed to sound like. They know what the lyrics should be about. They just don't know how to instill that mysterious essence called "heart" into even a single one of these songs. Which is ironic, given that the album dwells entirely on matters of the heart. "Obsession" demonstrates this dichotomy perfectly: the singer comes in low, with a smoky purr talking about how "physical" and "throbbing" it all is, the drums kick heavy and hollow, the guitar plays it spare and suggestive, the percussion builds and before you know it the whole thing is exploded by a synthesizer solo that seems to suggest something climactic. It's totally calculated to be seductive and sexy, and by doing so it insures that it's not going to be anything of the sort. This kind of measured creation results instead in something that can only be described as off-putting, nerdy and, worst of all, creepy
"Creepy" might in fact be the one word to describe this entire album. When Kulash chants on "Turn Up the Radio" that he's "got to turn up the radio/and turn off the lights" because he "just has to lose himself tonight" it doesn't sound like someone taking sweet solace in music. Instead, it sounds like a grown man trying to put on his best impression of a teenage girl who is only mouthing what MTV has told her is the proper response to emotional turmoil. Elsewhere, staccato claps, layers of too-funk synthesizers right out of Daft Punk and the occasional flourish on some set of strings just shows that the band is quick to raid the bottom-of-the-musical-clich-barrel.
The end result sounds like something that robots made after listening to every love song and every dance song written in the past 40 years. When the singer whines that "all (he) has our pieces [of his lost love]" he is saying this because that's the script that's been fed into his neural processor. If the album was any more interesting it might actually be disturbing, but it's not even that. It's so pre-programmed it blends into the background despite how incredibly busy and overproduced it is. And that, that subtlety, may be the creepiest thing of all.