Mike Gordon’s fifth solo album OGOGO is his clearest individual musical statement as an artist yet. Recorded with his own band OGOGO is cohesive, unique and sonically divergent from his main day job, infused with a confidence of an artist stepping into his own.
On the oddly titled OGOGO the majority of the songs are compact and direct, while flashes of this appeared on Phish’s last release Big Boat, this album is a more successful overall studio achievement. For a bass player who could play live the rest of his life on a massive back catalog this is a pleasantly surprising turn of events.
Things are noticeable excellent from the beginning as opener “Equilibrium” runs with an electro-dance beat containing layers of vocals and overlapping lyrics; the line “Off-kilter/Out of balance” pops up a few times, that is a good summation of Gordon himself and this album. That exact phrase and theme re-emerges for “Crazy Sometimes” which amps the industrial electro vibes with scattered keyboard lines, scratchy guitars and distorted vocals, yet somehow it seems incredibly organic and personal coming from the odd Gordon and his band.
These players, as well as engineer Shawn Everett (Alabama Shakes Sound and Color) should get a ton of credit. Recording with his solid band that includes guitarist and co-writer Scott Murawski, drummer John Kimock, keyboardist Robert Walter and percussionist Craig Myers; Gordon has a safe zone to experiment and succeed with each of them making massive contributions to the album.
“Steps” is another winner with Murawski’s funky as hell guitar work along with Walter’s keyboard swells and a bass groove from Gordon which flourishes into a fantastic solo. “Marissa” is an out and out love song with excellent lyrics and singing but also a great groove laid down by Kimock and Myers while “Up and Down” is a frantic swelling joy. A stand out number is “Go Away”, a whirling mix of uptempo dance beats and ethereal melodic work that drops in metallic guitar distortion and digital bleeps with astonishing effectiveness.
Gordon’s personal uniqueness also bubbles through and his idiosyncrasies may not be not for everyone. “Whirlwind” never fully comes together yet it still contains engaging ideas such as a fluttering ending while “Pendulum” begins with Gordon’s vocal exclamations and never really recovers. There are also a few tracks that might have fit more naturally onto a Phish stage like the wah-wah heavy “Victim” with its psychedelic flashes and the groove laden “Stealing Jamaica” but that is to be expected.
The success of the complete work of art outshines any small missteps or editing decisions as the overall lyrical theme of balancing of time/one’s self, shines through. Tracks like the arena ready “Let’s Go” pump up the energy while the bad ass swaggering of “Victim 3D” ends one of the most confident and strongest studio releases from any member of Phish, illuminating a bright new direction for Gordon and his impactful band.