Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Audio-OK displays a great new sound that needs more tinkering

February 12, 2010

Good Man by Audio-OK is a great idea that needs more work. The wiry art-punk that Audio-OK plays is filled out not with yelling or singing, but with CAKE-esque speak-singing. It’s like listening to a slowed-down, mellowed-out version of Bloc Party’s Silent Alarm, but with the guy from “The Distance” doing vocals instead of the freaked out howl of Kele Okereke. It is an incredibly interesting idea that I can’t wait to hear more of.

The problem is that while the band has figured out what they want to do, they haven’t clicked yet. The drummer, who was recruited very late in the songwriting process, doesn’t ever really gel with the band. He keeps fine rhythm, but he hasn’t picked up on the tight-knit unity of the bass, guitar and vocals yet. Tightly crafted songs like “Bad News” need to have a much tighter drum part than they currently do; that will come with age and experience, as the band grows into a cohesive whole.

Nevertheless, the creepy “The Good Man” works perfectly. The drums fit perfectly into the dark, rhythmic song, as dual speak-sung vocals create spoken harmony over some furious guitar and bass work. But it’s still the drums fitting in right as opposed to contributing. The same is true with closer “Higher,” although the heavier nature of the song allows for the drums to thrash a bit more and fit in that way. Power isn’t necessarily a substitute for complex and clear, but it certainly can be a nice stopgap for a while. “Higher” is the loudest track here, and it’s not one of the more unique ones, but it’s a heck of a lot of fun.

Audio-OK has a great, unique sound that they can build on. They need to keep growing and writing material together, but they have the elements to make a really tight, unique album in the future. Right now, Good Man is the sound of a band in progress. There are some great tracks, but there are also tracks where greatness peeks around the corner, then hides again. Lots and lots of promise in this band.

Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.

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