I didn’t get around to writing anything about Ought’s second record Sun Coming Down last year. Which, after how giddy I got writing about More Than Any Other Day, was something of an oversight. A knottier and more oblique set of songs than it’s predecessor I didn’t really get a handle on it. It was less easy to pin labels to them like it was on their first effort (this is their Talking Heads song! This is their Television song!) but that was as much of a problem as it was a virtue. Finding your identity is a messy business and whilst I have to take my hat off to Ought for not taking the easy option I can’t say I’ve fallen for Sun Coming Down yet. Maybe when they make it to Cardiff in April the songs will make more sense on stage.
But enough of what they didn’t do and onto what they did, which is write probably the best song of their career to date in Beautiful Blue Sky*.
It begins on a simple three note bass line, a nondescript rock drum beat, some meandering guitar and some dude rambling like he’s got a mouth full of peanut butter. So what is it that makes it so compelling? Largely it’s down to Tim Beeler channeling the same picket-fence guilded-cage desperation David Byrne captured so perfectly on Once in a Lifetime. It’s passages of him drowning in suburban barbecue small-talk before being born again, baptised in the waters that grace rock bottom:“I’m no longer afraid to die/for that is all that I have left.” It’s the exultant, “yes!” that follows, an exclamation which somehow says more than most singers can manage at their most confessional. And while Beeler’s performance takes the limelight the band builds on the songs humble opening over on stage left, their scrappy indie rock ascending to become something bigger almost under the radar. Sun Coming Down may not be as consistent as it’s predecessor but it has the distinction of grasping for something more, an endeavor always worthy of praise. And more than that there are moments where it grazes it’s fingers against it, moments where Ought remind us that when it all comes together they really are something special indeed.
*I think Habit is still my favourite. By a whisker.