The easy thing to do would be to label The Go! Team a party band. After all, the Brighton based band has spent the better part of the last six years retro-fitting a sound that snips noisy bits of energy from a curious cross section of musical sources. There's the Sonic Youth inspired shreds of electric guitar, the testifying blasts of back in the day brass, the double-dutch style chanting, and of course the aggressive hip hop theatrics of the band's main front-woman (who, by the way, answers to the name of Ninja). Over the course of two album's worth of material ('05's Thunder, Lighting, Strike
and '07's Proof of Youth
) the band have overflown the brim with a cacophonous glob of sound that always seems to go well with having a good time, and from first listen of their third LP, Rolling Blackouts
, it's evident the band has done it once again. So by all means, set the scene for your next social gathering to the sound of the band's latest batch of music. But please, shy away from labeling them a party band. I know Ian Parton would be reluctant to lay such a claim.
"I'm not a particularly peppy bloak", admits Parton, the band's founder and fearless leader. When I catch him on the line, Parton is whipping through late Friday afternoon traffic on the other side of the Atlantic, making his way home from the band's rehearsals for the upcoming touring acrobatics Rolling Blackouts
will no doubt demand of them. It's a surprising statement, one that might sound like the host hating on the party he helped to create. But it turns out it was very different motivations that drove Parton from the get go. It wasn't just about having a good time. Instead, he's "...always been really interested in the idea of contrast...of putting things like trumpets together with noisy guitars".
It's a mission that helped fuel the band's fairly loose creation, albeit only after Parton recorded most of the band's first album Thunder, Lightning, Strike
on his own. "There was no audition type process", he admits. "If you wanted to be in the band you were in". Those fairly simple terms of enrollment lead him to an odd group of people who probably, under any other circumstances, wouldn't normally be paired off together. Three skinny lads and a host of fun loving ladies, hammering on drums, plucking banjos, ripping guitars, and surrounding it all in a kinetic cloud of various beats, samples, and programming. Turns out it was a prize winning mish-mash, resulting in worldwide acclaim, insane live demand, and a nod from the Mercury Music Prize for best debut album in '05.
Parton and his mates would follow their debut with Proof of Youth
; a record that while favoring more live instrumentation than its predecessor, still shared a lot in common in terms of the degenerated aesthetic. At the time, Parton insisted that "Degrading the sound is still a big part of The Go! Team. We're always aiming to make things more chaotic and sound like it's on the edge of falling apart".
Four years removed from that effort, it seems the band's fascination with more shambolic creations is still intact. In fact, it's immediate. Rolling Blackouts
leads with a track titled T.O.R.N.A.D.O., an absolute call to attention that funnels the band's patented kaleidoscopic-pop energy right from the starter's pistol. It's enthralling and alarming; a hearty, "nice to see you again" kind of statement from a band fresh off a four year hiatus.
Still, Parton hears new qualities at play when it comes to the band's latest. "I've never used the word mature. I've always been a bit dubious of that word...But I would say the songwriting is more complicated, I think the production's rounder, it's more panoramic in its scope, and I think it's more ambitious in its arrangement and instrumentation. You know, live brass bands, African Gospel choirs...a larger palette of instruments".
That instrumental focus means fewer samples this time around, and an increased focal point on more original endeavors. The result is a Go! Team album that emphasizes songwriting...perhaps for the first time. "I approached this with more stress on the melodies. I knew I wanted to have more singing on it. Unfortunately we had become known as the shouty girl band."
As if to hammer that point home, Parton recruited a number of vocalists to guest on the album. Deerhoof's Satomi Matsuzaki handles the swinging '60's leads on "Secretary Song". Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino also shows up, lending her pipes to "Buy Nothing Day". "It was actually done a long time ago, sort of late '09", explains Parton. "This was before I even had a concept for who Best Coast was. I just thought she had a nice voice, and I had this song that I was imagining in this West Coast, girl group style. Bethany fit the bill...I wasn't hijacking any hype or anything."
Parton also placed more emphasis on the lyrics that inhabit Rolling Blackouts
, though don't expect the songs to dredge the depths of the human heart as they play through. "It's a bit more lyrical, but not in a way that's like, 'hey I'm an artist...I'm going to pour my heart out'. It's more cheeky than that."
This places The Go! Team in interesting territory. The band is more than a mere party-starter, but falls significantly short of penning music for some great examination of the human condition. Parton provides another perspective. "I'm really into the personality in songs...their identity and the world in which they exist. One minute you could feel like you're in an office in Tokyo in the '60s, and the next you could feel like you're in a marching band procession...or you're watching some public information film, or it's sort of like an early 80's, Brooklyn psychedelic hip hop song or something. It's quite schizo across the whole album."
In the end, this characteristic helps Parton explain why the the band is still around some six years later. "It's so mysterious, because really...your shelf life is so short these days. I definitely think we're a f*cking interesting band. I still feel like we are unique six years down the line. I can't think of anyone who sounds like us...and I'm happy with that."
Parton is a peppier bloak than he originally leads on. Sounds like there just might be a reason to party after all.
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