Review: The Go! Team: The Scene Between - 'Pop at its fizziest'
The Go! Team - The Scene Between
Still adhering to their trademark blend of samples and live recording, double-dutch chants and musical peculiarity, the band navigate through 12 tracks from perhaps a safer distance than usual. However, in their best, and arguably most singular, since 2007’s Proof Of Youth, there is telling signs that they are in the between stages of a major shift.
Among other things, the band describes their sound as “lasers through tracing paper, straight to video, a hovercraft on the fret board, a morse code pep talk, a daily Haley’s comet and light sound colour motion”. If that sounds like nonsense to you, you’re right, but if it doesn’t make complete sense or sound like anything you’d be interested in, then you probably haven’t heard this band before and may well be in the wrong article entirely.
Snap, crackle and pop
Settling in to this new cut from Ian, Chi, Kaori, Jamie, ninja and Sam, a drink is being decanted and Opening track, ‘What D’you Say?’, immediately poses an interesting question. As the top is popped and the fizzing bubbles shoot their way to the rim of a glass, I say “I dig!”. It’s a fizzy pop eruption in 4/4. It’s Dave Fridmann style production that really pounds the eardrums with a crunchy, overdriven drum sound and it’s vocally harmonious and joyous all at once. The Go! Team really are snap, crackle and pop (perhaps a potential title for their fifth album).
Such an opening track is exactly what the preliminary bottle opening attests to; sunny pop at its fizziest. With shades of Flaming Lips and Deerhoof (particularly Ninja’s vocal) and their characteristically colourful, playground hip-pop rock, The Scene Between’s maiden track is a brimming phantasmagoria in character that is teeming with energy. But more specifically, it still sounds fun. The Go Team! first punched in with Thunder, Lightning, Strike (2004), a largely instrumental yet choral album that I can only liken to late 70s American cop drama soundtracks (‘The Power Is On!’), kids playing double-dutch (‘We Just Won’t Be Defeated’) and Sonic Youth doing hip-hop (see ‘Ladyflash’ and ‘Junior Kickstart’) if you can imagine such a comparison. It was an eclectic bag of sweets to be sure and sounded like how I imagine a Jackson Pollock painting might sound if it was musical entity. And with Mercury nominations and widespread critical acclaim they were definitely (somehow) ticking all the right boxes. Having seen them live myself back in 2007 in support of their second album, Proof Of Youth, a perfect sequel to their first (try ‘Grip Like A Vice’), I can assure you that, considering their conception as a kitchen project of founding Go Teamer, Ian Parton, their live show was a perfect assembly of musicians and equally as fast paced, distinct and spirited as their albums’ diverse personality.
The Scene Between
Track two, ‘The Scene Between’, is a more straightforward, steady tune with an athemic charm but still holds true to their myriad sensory pallet with their trademark mix of samples and live band recording at the fore. ‘Waking the Jetstream’ and ‘Did You Know?’ are not much different here either. Erring on the horizontal line than their typical diagonal, the band has definitely fine-tuned a more standard aesthetic for the sake of progress. The Go Team!, however, are the sort of band you would expect to have gotten weirder with age, and where third album, Rolling Blackouts (2011) seemed to be heading, but this album is not the case, sounding more like an extended stay than a departure from their last stop.
Despite odd ditties like ‘Rolodex The Seasons’, ‘Gaffa Tape Bikini’ and ‘The Floating Felt Tip’, which you kind of wish they had fleshed out a bit, and subtle nods to the past in ‘Blowtorch’ which still maintain that distorted, care-free attitude (but with authentic hooks), the album lacks that intangible, unhinged quality they possessed a few years ago in favour of perhaps more “safe” choices. However, tracks like ‘Catch Me On The Rebound’ and ‘Her Last Wave’ have some great moments that are clearly well penned. It’s also important to note that one thing that is still the band’s strength is the production of the record. They manage to get a sound only a few bands can achieve and blend so much together without muddying the end result. Their ability to combine such differing sounds is unparalleled and was what caught my attention back in 2004; sounding like all things to all people.
A Personal Highlight
‘The Art Of Getting By’ is a personal highlight, perfectly blending their multi-faceted eccentricity with their newfound maturity in a song about just that—moving forward with what they know—that being “the only thing that matters”. Ironically, the overarching sound of TSB is in fact the scene in between; it’s not what it was yet seems, at least, on the way to something altogether new.
The album’s closer, ‘Reason Left to Destroy’, is a powerful parting sentiment. Another well balanced track but possessing bags of charisma and distortion, and, if listened to attentively, just enough musical nonconformity to aptly destroy any preconceived notions that this team is no longer on the go. To their credit, they’re simply more authentic, more human in this record.
Key Tracks: ‘What D’You Say?’, ‘The Scene Between’, ‘Rolodex The Seasons’, ‘Blowtorch’, ‘Catch Me On The Rebound’, ‘Reason Left To Destroy’