THE GO! TEAM – Rolling Blackouts

go team

Back in 2005 when the Go! Team’s debut (‘Thunder, Lightning, Strike’) was released, there seemed to be a genuine buzz of excitement among the indie/alternative community. However, despite having a broad musical taste, I just couldn’t take to their mish-mash of guitar pop, dance loops and occasional cheerleader-esque vocals. Within a few months of its release, I forgot about them. Their sophomore album (‘Proof of Youth’) bought them bigger chart success, and yet its release passed me by at first; even though I was mixing with the same people, for some reason, they’d stopped talking about the Brighton sextet.

At the beginning of 2011, The Go! Team returned with their third release, which presents a similar mix of styles as before; some parts of which, naturally, work better than others. The opening track ‘T.O.R.N.A.D.O’ mixes blaxploitation sounds with a danceable groove and ends up sounding like a Beastie Boys cast off. While that end groove has something of appeal, the beats are hard and the sampled horns are potentially headache inducing; this drowns out the vocal line – though I suspect Ninja’s bad rap stylings are of an empty sentiment. A swift u-turn in sound follows with ‘Secretary Song’(featuring Satomi Matsuzaki of Deerhoof)- a track which brings a mix of twee indie pop (a la Saint Etienne) and fuzzy guitar lines. There’s a sweet tune hiding within the hard beats and, once again, the vocals are a bit fudgy sounding, but there’s enough here to get a sense of what the band were aiming for musically.

The instrumental cut ‘Bust-Out Brigade’ really hits the spot with its huge (sampled) horns and general funkiness. There’s a sassiness which would befit a 1970s cop movie, even though the sounds of a glockenspiel occasionally gives the feeling of a marching band! As a long time fan of the Beasties’ ‘In Sound From Way Out’ compilation, this really appeals to me and I wish The Go! Team would do this sort of thing more often. Featuring a guest vocal from Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino (very much the indie/alternative pop flavour of the month by the end of 2010), the lead single, ‘Buy Nothing Day’ is a decent slice of guitar-driven indie-pop, all ringing guitars and sunshine – the kind you’ve heard hundreds of times before – but stylistically, it really suits The Go! Team.

‘Voice Yr Choice’ is a proper dud. Against a very synthetic sounding arrangement (bar some live drums, rather loud in the end mix), Ninja delivers a really awful rap performance. It’s the kind that’s so bad, you realise that maybe Betty Boo wasn’t so bad after all. Luckily, it becomes a distant memory quickly; as soon as it ends, The Go! Team swiftly move on to something more enjoyable. ‘Yosemite Blues’ is a busy (mostly) instrumental number which fuses funk, banjos, more glockenspeils and live drums in a way which sounds like a cross between alternative rock/pop and a 1970s theme tune for a western.

Following a slightly out of tune instrumental played on an old upright piano (‘Lazy Poltergeist’),the title track brings with it plenty of punch and fuzzy guitars. A hushed vocal gives the performance an odd contrast. Listening to it, it’s hard to believe it’s the work of the same band that has a penchant for bad rap, sassy horns and busy sampling. That diversity is either very cool, or The Go! Team’s biggest weakness, depending on your personal viewpoint.

For almost pure pop, ‘Ready To Go Steady’ is a standout, with twee sixties influences and almost surfy vibe. The sampled drum fills are put to good use and its simple vocal hook is effective, creating something sounds like The Postmarks meets Saint Etienne. Also, fully exploring kitsch, a short instrumental, ‘Super Triangle’ utilises a simple retro synth tune over acoustic guitars. To those of a certain age, its hard not to listen to this and visualise the old BBC Testcard.

Occasionally, you’ll get a track where all of most of The Go! Team’s elements come together, as they do during ‘Apollo Throwdown’. The live drums are punchy, the sampled beats drive things along and the music has a very retro vibe, echoing the disco era. The rap elements aren’t as embarrassing (though not entirely to my tastes) and a chorus employs an almost cheer-leading aspect. These elements feel far more natural here than on some other tracks.

As before, it’s sometimes difficult to work out at whom The Go! Team are aiming their smorgasbord of sounds. Listening to ‘Rolling Blackouts’, I like them far more than I ever did before (even being inspired enough to revisit their previous works). There’s a lot here to enjoy, providing you can get past the often claustrophobic nature of the end product. As good as some of this is, though, there’s still a feeling that The Go! Team still haven’t fully realised their potential.

January 2011