OK, Now What? New album finds the group at a crossroads. Or maybe on a sofa.

Three albums in, OK Go is a band at a crossroads, famous primarily for a fist-raising football chant mainstreamed by Madden NFL 2003, and for successfully conquering treadmill physics in its 2006 video for “Here It Goes Again.” The latter, of course, reached cultural saturation thanks to the Internet. Recognizing that the medium has become its message, OK Go has changed the message accordingly. “Fuck it,” Of the Blue Colour of the Sky seems to say with a shrug. “You want technology? We’ll give you technology.” From its opening seconds, the album is a vast departure for the group: Clipped fragments of Damian Kulash’s disembodied voice are quickly replaced with the electronically distorted buzz of Tim Nordwind’s bass and the heavy prog pounding of Dan Konopka’s drums coming together in 5/4 time. Gone is OK Go’s incisive and diverse power-pop. In its place is the feeling—bolstered by the production of David Fridmann, full of his signature mind-expanding whomp—that the band has finally discovered the Flaming Lips’ The Soft Bulletin 10 years after the fact. Or OK Computer. Or Purple Rain. Or The Con. OK Go has never been shy about the bands it digs, happily sticking quotes and homages into its songs. The trouble with Colour is the difficulty most of the material has shaking off the footnotes. “Before The Earth Was Round” and “Needing/Getting” owe deep debts to Radiohead (with, in the latter’s case, echoes of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Fleet Foxes). The throbbing synth bass and pleading vocal make “End Love” sound like Tegan and Sara playing “I Would Die 4 U,” while Kulash’s spacey, gentle falsetto is just one of a thousand elements making “While You Were Asleep” sound exactly like the Flaming Lips. To OK Go’s immense credit, none of it seems forced. The songs are natural outgrowths of earlier experiments and sound fine. More than fine, in some cases. They just don’t sound like OK Go. That isn’t such a bad thing when the results are like the hot Gap Band–style disco-funk of “White Knuckles” or the slinky, deliberate “Skyscrapers,” which runs out its final 90 seconds with a simmering guitar solo. In “I Want You So Bad I Can’t Breathe,” meanwhile, Kulash sings in a sensuous falsetto over heavy bells and an instrumental bed that splits the difference between “Atomic” and “Rapture.” Maybe Blondie is the key to making sense of Colour, in terms of a band transitioning from a somewhat aggressive, guitar-based mode to a more danceable (or at least groove-based) direction. The transition, though, is nowhere more evident than on the ghostly, clattering “Back From Kathmandu.” Fridmann’s production notwithstanding, it’s straightforward enough to harken back to the first two albums, but by the time OK Go gets to it, the context has been set and it sounds like a new band. On Colour, it may just be one. —Marc Hirsh