As much as we search and hunger for new sounds and inspirations, artists and records which tempt and provoke with something freshly striking, there is a just as instinctive and greedy an appetite for past pleasures which were maybe missed or did not get the exposure and attention deserved. US outfit Oh Ok is one such outfit, a band which emerged in the eighties from an Athens, Georgia music scene which gave us the likes of R.E.M., Widespread Panic, and The B-52s. Thanks to HHBTM Records, a label which has already reissued musts from the city’s Pylon and Love Tractor, that omission in one’s musical landscape was recently remedied with a compilation of the band’s only releases; The Complete Reissue presenting Oh OK in their full glory.
Formed in 1981 by vocalist Linda Hopper and bassist/vocalist Lynda Stipe with its initial line-up completed by drummer David Pierce, Oh OK became a solid proposition with the band’s first gig as opener for Stipe’s brother Michael’s band, R.E.M. at the 40 Watt Club. The band proceeded to release two EPs in the shape of 1982’s Wow Mini Album and 1983’s Furthermore What, both united in The Complete Reissue with a handful of live tracks recorded at the Peppermint Lounge in 1984 and two songs which were set to be their final 7” before the band broke up but were never released. HHBTM Records first released The Complete Reissue in 2011 but with the long out-of-print record eagerly sought after they have brought it to our ears once again. As for the band, Hopper went on to form the 1990s alt-rock band Magnapop while Stipe formed Hetch Hetchy and has a current project Flash to Bang Time which is preparing to release a new album in 2021.
Maybe unsurprisingly Oh Ok‘s rhythmically fuelled post punk/indie rock sound had a definite Pylon inspiration to it and also reminds at times of UK bands like Girls at Our Best and The Raincoats but as proven within this release it immediately stamped down its own individuality. The four tracks making up WOW mini album sets the release off, Lilting asking for barely a minute of attention and eagerly getting it for the creative addiction cast. From the nagging lure of Stipe’s bass and the similarly enticing vocals of both ladies, the song worms under the skin, the rhythmic jabbing of Pierce lining the welcome trespass of its devilish new wave pop.
With a personal passion for bass and drum led incitements, Oh OK is manna to the ears and Brother epitomises why. Again Stipe and Pierce manipulate as they tempt, their stroll slavery to body and spirit just as Hopper seduces ears with her laid back but eager tones. There is a April March meets The 220.127.116.11’s scent to the track which never fully erupts but hints throughout while Playtime offers a whiff of bands like Au Pairs and Suburban Lawns but similarly sets its own character and uniqueness.
After Person had us bouncing with kinetic aberrance to match its own atypical enterprise, the album presents five live tracks never put to tape before. Each bear witness to the fact that the band’s sound was as edaciously potent on stage as it was within vinyl grooves; the likes of Is It?, Here We Go, and Jumping almost crawling over the bodies before them to incite eager reaction, success more than matched and exposed by the excellent Down By the Beach and the wonderfully predacious and twisted Shock (Sic Transit).
The six tracks making up Furthermore What show the growth in the band’s sound in the year between. Its line-up at this point included David McNair on drums and Matthew Sweet on guitar and in some ways personal preference was less eager with the addition of another instrument for a more conventional line-up. It could have been a threat to what had us addicted previously but the EP’s songs starting with Such n Such soon sorted us out. There is a more rounded essence to the track and its companions which maybe polished up that initial DIY aspect which pleasured so but still lingered yet with Stipe’s bass still the lead protagonist of post punk pleasure and vocals a beacon of temptation, doubt fled and the imagination grew greedy.
From the Three Johns-esque Guru and the melodic jangle and seduction of Choukoutien, the blossoming of the new fertility and richness in the Oh Ok sound was compelling and as deeply under the skin as earlier tracks, the rhythmically twined and sonically shimmering Straight further riveting proof.
The rhythmic gymnastics and post punk deviousness of Giddy Up is another major moment in our hunger for the Georgian band, its body almost primal yet athletically graceful with a dynamic enterprise to match while Elaine’s Song with its seductive swing and creative drama courted yet another fresh aspect to the band’s growing maturity and invention.
The final songs making up that never to be uncaged single leave an itch which will never be scratched, the pair of Courage Courage and Random a recall to the band’s early days but forging a new manipulation of the senses and addiction that infests as it teasingly tempts. They both have an almost carnal essence which reminds of another UK outfit in The Diagram Brothers but yet again they are forged only in unique incitement to trigger a longing of what might have been.
Whether as a collection of everything from a band you loved or an introduction to a yet realised post punk inspired fixation, Oh Ok and The Complete Reissue are simply a must.
The Complete Reissue is out now via HHBTM Records available on vinyl, Ltd Ed cassette and digitally @ https://hhbtm.bandcamp.com/album/the-complete-reissue
Pete RingMaster 02/04/2021
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