Ok Go – This Too Shall Pass

I got Ok Go’s debut album, along with the sub-par video game, James Bond 007 Nightfire, and a Motorola V220 (continuing a short lived obsession for flip phones) for my 16th birthday.  I was using this phone to make an arse of myself to a girl I liked, thinking it would be funny to tell the girl off for swearing.  Being quite new to texting girls for flirtation, no-one had yet passed onto me the power of the smilie or emotive.  I also, at the time, detested exclamation marks, their lack making my jests read ever sterner.  I panicked at her reply and thus went further – asking if she swears because her friends swear, and that ladies shouldn’t swear.  I proceeded to dig deeper.  Maybe I thought that this new method of communication would change one’s interactions with girls, as one always presumes a car or a shotgun would.  The prospect of being able to flirt with someone yet being nowhere near them seemed far more promising than doing it in reality.  Nervousness and neuroticism overcame these new spatial definitions offered by the mobile phone.

My obsessing over this memory comes from its astounding insignificance.  There are certain memories that I, and I’m sure everyone, have which bear absolutely no importance whatsoever.  Yet these memories, in their clarity and involuntary reoccurrence, define the art of remembering more acutely than any other.  Of course one can remember details and dates and emotions and people and spaces and rooms and events, but to recall precisely the tone of voice, or smell a new desk, is misty in such pragmatic thoughts.  Instead, in film, one supposes these feelings would be represented by a facial expression – nothing more.  The insignificant ones, however, would be more suited to the conventional flashback.  No fades or diffuses though, and one which has no affect on the film’s temporality, as in time stops while the memory is portrayed, but a flashback of about 30 seconds in length which in reality takes a fraction of a second to experience.

And on hearing an Ok Go track, all of the above occurs in one jolt of a neuron.  I make a fool of myself to a girl.  I play on my birthday present for the first time, and become disappointed at everything past the car chase sequence through Paris.  I sit at my desk and load up a 3 disc changer CD player.  I open a window.  My mother calls me down for birthday cake at 6.36pm.

The insignificant memories are given meaning by their triggers.  The BFI (massive spoiler) sheets they have at screenings, specific to the film, presented this notion to me.  Ophulus’ Letter From An Unknown Woman is entirely about insignificant memories.  The protagonist is never remembered by her love, resigning her to just a hazy trigger.  Upon ever seeing her he remarks on that he must have met her before.  That these previous meetings were so intimate is the reason for her withholding them, his betrayal in his complacency.  But it is the moment when he first forgets her that ruins the rest of his life; an insignificant moment become an unnamed haunt of his subconscious.  The answer lies in the trigger of these things.  But what then, does Ok Go yield?

Music is capable of evoking a particular place and time in a manner that film cannot.  By its very nature, especially in the mechanism of its temple, the cinema, the senses are meant to be overridden.  An imprint of someone else’s emotions is being placed into you at the cinema, displacing, or at least masking, one’s own.  Arguments may be had for those less narrative, less mainstream works, but even then you are instilled by a director’s aim, or by a scriptwriter’s or particular ideology or theory.

Because of these significant insignificances, I hold Ok Go tracks quite dearly, and their new album, despite a progression of technique and influence (namely Prince), still has enough auteur traits to pluck a few of my heart stings.  The album’s voice and music seem to blend into a wave – not a tsunami of sound, but more in the way in which the sea laps at one’s feet.

They are more known for their videos than the music in that they bathe in.  I would say “a shame”, but the videos are so deadpan and energetic that it is hard to critique their popularity.  Their enthusiasm and creative output can be seen in their side releases and to the extent in which they embrace music video.  They love to cover their favourite songs (search in Spotify), rework their old ones and have completed two videos for their latest single, This Too Shall Pass.  I like the title.  It reminds me of the insignificance of things.

The notable trait here, which can be tracked back to their dance videos for A Million Ways To Be Cruel and Here It Goes Again, is the use of the single take.  This demands great precision and rehearsing of those before the camera, which are of course the band themselves.  Yes one may attribute the success of the videos to the creative force behind the camera, but yet again (I detect my own trait from a previous blog entry on the merits of actors) Ok Go seem to relish the process also.


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