The Go! Team invite you to join the school band…
As the old expression goes, if it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it. The Go! Team’s fifth album arrives and essentially delivers precisely what you’d expect from Ian Parton’s music collective.
The genesis of The Go!Team grew originally from Parton’s desire to create a melting pot of sounds and influences, including Sonic Youth-style guitars, double Dutch chants, old school hip hop and nods to an oddly affecting 70s sheen.
The Go! Team’s first studio album, Thunder, Lightning, Strike, released in 2004, captured this concept across 11 tracks of simple, yet effective garage band energy. The album met with critical acclaim and was nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2005. This was matched with dynamic live outings in later years, marking The Go! Team as popular festival regulars.
With the outfit appearing to dissolve following 2011’s Rolling Blackouts, Parton kept the pilot light on for 2015’s The Scene Between.
New album release Semicircle harks back to the outfit’s earlier sound. In fact Parton has embellished the classic Go! Team sound by bringing onboard an actual youth choir from Detroit to augment his old school sound. As a result, that school marching band sound typified by songs such as ‘Huddle Formation’ and ‘Bust-Out Brigade’ on earlier albums is given much more punch here.
Meanwhile, the sound palette is peppered with the usual unusual selection of instrumentation, including glockenspiel, sitar and trumpets as well as a choice selection of samples. This collage of sound delivers a dynamic quality to The Go! Team’s material that crafts an atmosphere that suggests a naive joy of sorts.
The breezy charm Of ‘Chain Link Fence’ has a summery appeal. Meanwhile, ‘Semicircle Song’ is a wonderful composition of brassy stabs and simple percussion. It’s lyrical themes of teamwork and organisation suggest an effortless source of motivation (“It’s just a thing we do/we turn a semicircle into a team”). The addition of the singers calling out their star signs lends the whole affair a quirky moment.
Elsewhere, ‘The Answer’s No – Now What’s The Question’ offers a Wall Of Sound moment whose bold sound is put into contrast by the wistful vocals. ‘If There’s One Thing You Should Know’ drops in steel drums into the mix. The bombastic ‘She’s Got Guns’ has much more front, care of rapper Ninja.
The optimistic drive of album closer ‘Getting Back Up’ is a fine way to close proceedings and wraps a neat bow around this particular collection of songs.
Semicircle is a serviceable Go! Team effort, but there’s an argument that the outfit’s evolution has been halted by stepping back from the more 60s girl band approach that they had been crafting since their 2011 album Rolling Blackouts (particularly the excellent ‘Buy Nothing Day’). While there’s nothing inherently wrong with Semicircle’s approach on the whole, it does feel like a safe album. Their debut album Thunder, Lightning, Strike was, after all, founded on what was (for the time) a risky sound concept. It might be time for The Go! Team to step out from that safety position for future efforts, although the die-hard Go! Team fan will find little to quibble about on this release.
Semicircle is out now on the Memphis Industries label.