Don't Ask Me

Is OK Go's Damien Kulash too smart for his own good?

Though Kulash's lyrics are no less keen, the difference in the later material is audible. "1000 Miles Per Hour," for example, feeds a sense of urgent yearning through a bouncy backbeat and irrepressible pop chorus reminiscent of The Cars. And nowhere is Kulash more emotionally present and direct than on "Shortly Before The End," a sweetly simple tune washed in reverb and star-shower keyboards.

"I wanted to write songs that people really get," he says of those latter writing sessions. "Songs that you don't have to think a lot about, that you just feel. With art--and music, especially--I guess my attitude is, if you have some kind of statement to make, just write your essay. But the tools that come with music can speak to people in a much more profound way than just toying around with logic."

Kulash is on a roll now, and whether he knows it or not (and the guess is: he does), he's dispensing a lot of wisdom about how music "operates," to employ the semiotical verb of choice.

"The effect that a song has should go beyond reason," his mini-monologue continues. "A song makes you want to jump around, or it makes you want to cry, but ultimately, it moves you. As opposed to just tickling the cerebral part of your brain. Well, if it's a good song, anyway."

One good song, and maybe the best song on OK Go is "There's a Fire." The track, which Kulash, too, cites as a personal favorite, floats along on a beat only a few bong hits shy of dancehall reggae, the perfect musical idiom for its lyrics about syntactical breakdown: "I never say quite what I mean/And never mean quite what I say...And what the hell did I mean to say?/There's a fire, there's a fire." In Kulash's hands, the words come off as a deadly serious joke, a volley straight from the heart of a guy who is trying, desperately, to escape his brain.

Deconstruct that. No, seriously.

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