Been listening to this band for a while now. Homepage, blog, myspace, and wikipedia. Funny story about how I heard about them, well that part of the story isn’t funny, because it was just a friend who told me. However, she discovered them after hearing a track of theirs (“Get Over It”) as the soundtrack to a “teen webcam strip”. Classic. I wonder if this shall become a new mode of distribution or awareness building? Like, creating exposure through ‘amateur’ internet porn. The trick seems to hook into a libidinal economy of some description and the spectacularistion of the human body seems as good as any for a commercial interest.
The singer can sing and the band can play. This is a good start. And they recorded their last album in Sweden, and Sweden is cool! Foucault went there, I went there, heaps of other awesome people live there. They have captured a sound that is not in the too-distant orbit of much contemporary alternative rock in the US (normally alligned with ‘college radio’ apparently, but I wouldn’t know). The lead singer Damian Kulash has appeared on the Colbert Report late last month, see video here. They discussed the bands use of the internet. It is not the most informative of interviews. As well as Youtube video clips, and a blogger blog, the band also uses a public Flicker photo group as their official band photo album. Here is one image:
Kulash went to Brown University and apparently two previous members of the band are now professors (US-style professors which is not the same thing as Australian professors), so he at least has some intellectual chops to back up the cutesy boy rocker-band image that the band is sometimes (self)portrayed as having. He also wrote a how-to guide for bands who were hoping to unseat US President Bush during the last presidential election. It included a section called “What the fuck?” about why liberal Americans aren’t voting.
WE NEED TO FIRE BUSH
He is the worst President in modern history.He is leading us in the wrong direction, he has the wrong
priorities, and he is making problems worse.
Cool. I think I have a new favourite band.
The (url) title of their blog “The Will to Rock” reminds of something Christian would write (or name his blog!). Are they merely demonstrating their intellectual cultural capital or something else? I think they have some substance, as I argue below.
I’ve only managed to get my hands on their 2002 self-titled and first proper album, OK GO. If they were big in Australia in 2002 or whatever, then I missed it. Sorry for being so out of the hipster cool stakes, but I have little interest. I just like the music. Please accept this blog post as a token of my sincerest apologies for whatever component of me thinks it is all sheer indulgence.
“Get Over It” is my favourite song, and I think their most interesting. The short section of “Get Over It” available on their site doesn’t do the song justice. Here is the very funny video clip. Watch for all the ways they play with the representations of key words in the lyrics. ‘Holes’ gets a shot of swiss cheese. ‘Hey’ becomes a bundle of hay. And it has one of the best lines ever: “You got a body like a battle axe”!!!! That is up there with Van Halen’s line (“Only time will tell if we’ll stand the test of time”) that signifies the complex temporality of the event of the relationship versus the agonistic durability of love. The ‘body like a battle axe’ line is vaguely Proustian in its invocation of a weapon that cuts to describe a bodily form that pierces one’s libido, plus there is the indexical semiotic pun of the actual physical outline of a battle axe (think ‘savage hour glass’) looking like a shapely female form.
“Get Over It” is not a breakup song in the normal depressing mode or genre of break-up songs. I hear it as a breakup anthem for post-gothic-post-punk-post-emo-almost-hipsterist crowd. It inverts the breakup logic of sorrow and longing into one of release and new potential. Not unlike the much more rough and raw 28 Days track “Goodbye”. However, it is not a breakup with a person, stemming from a relationship, but a breakup with the mystified realities of the world, which are captured in the reactionary longing that I have most often felt when breaking up or being dumped. The logic goes something like this: you once though he or she was dreamy, but they aren’t. Except it isn’t about a he or she, but about the realisation fo the stupidities of the world. Opening verse (which reminds me of discussion of ‘holey space’ in A Thousand Plateaus, but that is another transversal tangent):
Lot of knots, lot of snags,
lot of holes, lot of cracks lot of crags.
Lot of naggin’ old hags,
lot of fools, lot of fool scum bags.
Oh it’s such a drag, what a chore,
oh your wounds are full of salt.
Everything’s a stress and what’s more,
well it’s all somebody’s fault.
Reading between the lines of a snippet of information about Kulash’s dogs needing to get their stomachs pumped after eating a bottle of prescription antacid from this interview, it is clear that, for Kulash at least, taking such a stand againsty the stupidities of the world is not all fun and games. That is, it may be stressful enough to produce stomach ulcers that require prescription medicine… Perhaps this was the ‘Get Over It’ moment for Kulash against the world, evidence of a Nietzschean ‘will to rock’? Rather than lapsing into the reactionary desire to blame somebody else for the ills of the world, it is a question of ‘getting over it’. Not unlike Twisted Sister’s legendary anthem “We’re Not Going to Take It” for the generation of kids growing up with the neo-cons, “Get Over It” should be understood as a counter-neoliberal or counter-control-societies anthem. Both express the ‘power of rock’ as a ‘will to rock’. “Get Over It” is an anthem of refusal. One that refuses to allow the reactionary desire — used as a political resource by neo-cons — to fester and perculate. Lawrence Grossberg, eat your heart out.
As a sidenote, I feel much more like this sort of music represents who I am at the moment, than say, for example, the sorts of British bands upon which K-Punk often ruminates.
Second favourite track is “There’s a Fire” which tackles the relationship from the other end. Well, ‘tackle’ is the wrong word, it is more of slow awkward caress full of yearning and cynical but almost-innocent goodness. It is a feel good track for people who have no interest in listening to someone else’s (ie gen-X) “1980s feel good music”. It sounds a lot like the early Cure, too, but not in a derivative mimicry, more in a delightful affirmative way exemplifed in the vocalisation-of-affirmation of the chorus ‘there’s a fire’ in the sense of there is a fire. For some reason the song reminds me of the film Days of Thunder, I know this is a somewhat perverse connection, but maybe because the film captured Kidman and Cruise actually falling in love? Not sure, but like the above, it is less about an actual falling-in-love between two people, than a realisation of the ‘fire’ itself, or a longing for the ‘fire’ to be recognised as such (ie much like the longing to be recognised by the one you love). So more of a critical Epicurean affirmation of the vitalist ‘fire’ in the world. Opening lines:
Stop getting me off track.
I mean it, there’s a problem here.
This time it is for real…
how can I make myself more clear?
After two hours of listening at the gym, I can safely add a more nuanced level of ‘listening’ to my ‘reading’ of this track. that the song also lays out the problem of speaking the truth, not so much a discursive mode like Foucault’s parrhesia, but more along the lines of a performative utterance. In a sense, we are all in a similar homological relation to the ‘truth’ as that of the ‘boy who cried wolf’. However, we are in this relation not because we are necessarily untruthful, but because the category of ‘truth’ itself has been damaged beyond repair and rendered problematic. That is, the song exaplins the problematic of really saying ‘there is a fire’. Again, it is a love song in its construction, and delicate keyboarding, but a love song attempting to seduce truth itself; the truth of the ‘fire’:
I never say quite what I mean, and never mean quite what I say,
and how did that get out of me, and what the hell did I mean to
There’s a fire. There’s a fire.
Third: “Shortly Before the End” is a much slower and perhaps languid or relaxing track, but which still manages to envelope me as a listener in a ‘full’ rock sound. It is ‘full’ without being loud or rough, and it is still very delicate and soft. Much of this is to do with the very high production quality. But I think it also has much to do with the marvelous voice of singer Damian Kulash. Who comes across as being able to express a broad dynamic range without having to show it off through some pretentious shit like Muse has become (it was great at first, but Muse really need to get over themselves).
“What To Do” has some weird thing going on with the tempo as the chorus kicks. This subtle trick catches you unawares, like the immediacy of a situation in which you may ask yourself, “What to do?” “1000 miles per hour” sounds like a Jack Johnson track. “You’re So Hot”, like the band members, is hot.
Some other funny links. There made-in-one-take choreographed dance music video for their track “A Million Ways” has been downloaded 9 million times and spawned a huge number of user-made content see you tube. Here is a music video they made involving choreographed treamill action mentioned in the Colbert interview.
After listening to it on their website, I am not sure about the new album. It feels like they have lost some of their youthful vitality by becoming a more formalised ‘rock’.
And when are these mofos coming to Australia?
My band would be called “OK Back to Work” cause that is what I am doing now.