Of the Blue Color of the Sky provides a look at a band in transition. It’s not always pretty, it’s often ill-advised, but at the same time it’s often promising and enjoyable for what it is. OK Go take a break from the traditional pop/rock setup and lean more heavily on ’80s-inspired synths, sometimes successfully, but more so to the point that it becomes a crutch, dampening what should be a primarily high-voltage affair. The occasional dose of The Killers or Menomena gives it a kick that helps album highlights such as opener “WTF?” and “White Knuckles” deliver an unforgettable punch, but too often OK Go settles back into a too-easy-to-swallow systematic approach that will inevitably cause listeners to wonder why they’re listening to a washed out version of Prince. This is particularly true of a three-song stretch (with the exception of “White Knuckles”) in the middle of the album that is capped off by “Last Leaf,” an acoustic ballad of cringe-inducing predictability that brings the album to a slow halt. “Back From Kathmandu” brings a sigh of relief in the form of a more energetic composition, while the last two tracks bring the album to a fairly uneventful but satisfying end.
With these negatives pointed out, it cannot be overlooked that when OK Go hits the balance between the various and obvious influences they’ve taken in since Oh No, they do so with poise. Lead single “WTF?” features a savory, slippery-as-soap Prince inspired melody with bursts of instrumental flourishes that capture the attention and will put smiles on plenty of faces. Anthems are not lacking, and songs such as “This too Shall Pass” and “Needing/Getting” are sure to provide the soundtrack for many-a-teen’s drive to school. “Skyscrapers” is a highly successful low-tempo track, demonstrating perfectly how to slow things down on an album where things are not supposed to slow down. Despite the fact that there’s plenty on the album to question, there’s also undoubtedly plenty here to embrace for the pop perfection it aspires to be.
Of the Blue Color of the Sky is an admirable attempt to bridge the gap between mainstream anthems and indie-approved textures. Does it work? Yes, in the sense that it gets the job done. It more or less limps it way through the 13 tracks, occasionally looking up to grin at those who are gathered around to cheer it on, and even dares to flex its melodic muscle from time to time. However, for the remainder of its hobbled walk it focuses on the well-trodden ground directly before it, afraid to take any true risk or abandon its methodical step-by-step approach. It’s a bit like watching a young child begin to grow more confident in taking steps; it’s certainly nothing to aspire towards, but it’s pleasing and exciting to see. Sure, Blue Color of the Sky might not be particularly special – it might be unable to poke its head out from the shadows of its big brothers – but with an attempt this honest and promising it almost feels wrong to criticize.