The Go! Team - Rolling Blackouts
released 31 January 2011 on Memphis Industries
In a recent interview with The Guardian it was put to The Go! Team founder, Ian Parton, that the band burst onto the scene with such a well-defined aesthetic, they may struggle to break free of the blueprint they’d created. It’s certainly a theory with legs - debut album Thunder, Lightning, Strike was a breath of fresh air upon release: cut and paste sampling, Double Dutch chants, a healthy dose of nostalgia and enormous fun. When second album Proof of Youth arrived showing few signs of progression, responses were lukewarm at best.
In this interview, journalist Alexis Petridis went on to say that The Go! Team had, against the odds, managed to add something to their repertoire third time around, and that Rolling Blackouts clearly showed the group trying to do something different. Having lived with the album for a while, it transpires Petridis’ comments were somewhat on the generous side.
That’s not to say The Go! Team are stuck in a creative rut. Rolling Blackouts is probably the most experimental and diverse of their three albums, yet it’s still unmistakeably a Go! Team record. They’re no longer so reliant on lead vocalist Ninja, collaborating this time round with, among others, Satomi Matsuzaki of Deerhoof and Bethany Cosentino from Best Coast. There’s something of a Far Eastern influence in some of the tracks too: Back Like 8 Track and Secretary Song have something distinctly Japanese about them, and Ready To Go Steady has a kitsch, Hello Kitty vibe with its twee, sing-song lyrics (“We’ve only just met but I am ready to go steady”).
And there’s more. Yosemite Theme is lighter than we’ve come to expect from The Go! Team and achieves the Morricone-influenced, widescreen sound Parton has claimed the band are striving towards. The Running Range is perhaps the biggest surprise yet; it’s probably the most acoustic-sounding, guitar-driven song The Go! Team have put their names to, and it’s not just any guitar sound, it’s a Country and Western guitar sound.
Yet somehow, despite the obvious attempts at diversity, there’s still a nagging feeling that they’re re-treading old ground all too often. Even when seemingly making roads away from what they’re best known for, there’s still the deliberately lo-fi production, the huge, distorted drums, and a kitchen-sink approach to instrumentation. In fact, on Apollo Throwdown, Ninja’s lyrics are not too dissimilar to those of Thunder, Lightning, Strike’s Bottle Rocket, and Super Triangle shares significant DNA with Everyone’s a V.I.P. to Someone.
The relentless, full-blooded Buy Nothing Day aside, Rolling Blackouts is at its best when it messes with the formula. All thirteen tracks are perfectly adequate in isolation, but listening to them in sequence can get wearing. There’s enough within Rolling Blackouts to suggest that The Go! Team can move forward and expand upon what they’ve created previously. But, to go back to the original point, The Go! Team sound is now so entrenched that any radical departures may be best received if not under The Go! Team moniker.
Rolling Blackouts is a Technicolor, kaleidoscopic riot of a record but, put in context, it can’t fail to be tinged with a hint of disappointment. There’s a real risk that The Go! Team may have painted themselves into a corner (albeit with various shades of eye-wateringly luminous paint); it will be intriguing to see where they go from here.