When vocalist Billy O’Neill and organist Ig had just begun to form Oh My God back in 1999, setback struck when their rehearsal building burned down and they lost all their instruments. To make things worse, the building owner accused them of starting the fire and took them to court with the claim that “Oh My God use their equipment in such a way as to cause it to ignite and burst into flames.” It took 10 years for O’Neill and Ig to be exonerated, but the quote served them well for publicity purposes in the meantime.
Yet while the fire-y description might have applied to some of their earlier material, on The Night Undoes the Work of the Day, their sixth album (but only second with guitar), the Chicago band tones it down a notch or two. Previously known for their Pere Ubu-like chaos, flamboyance, and big soulful sound, the band mainly just keeps the last of these traits here.
Listening to O’Neill sing the lyrics to these 10 songs, it sounds like the characters in the songs have seen better days. “Mike can’t get unbroken (he thinks he’s worse than a subway token)” he sings on “My Prayer,” and “Shine a light into my endless night,” on “Bring Yourself.” Even more tragic is a song about falling asleep on a one-way bus and watching while time and loved ones slip away. Yet despite the depressing verses, the music has an uplifting feel, and no matter the pain that he’s singing about, O’Neill’s full, passionate vocals seem to have a spark of life that can’t be quenched. Though sometimes some repetition veers toward cheesiness, the therapeutic quality is overwhelmingly sincere.
The album still contains a few joyful tunes, most notably “Baby, Dream,” a song about hoping to meet a certain person that starts off with soulful progressive vocals, and drops in and out of a poppy chorus. Along similar lines, “Baby, There’s Nothin’ Wrong (You Just Gotta Go to Work),” is a fun song about a lighter subject that everyone can probably identify with. But no matter what mood they’re in, O’Neill, Ig and their latest guitarist and drummer seem to possess an instinct for playing large, catchy, passionate music.