Rolling Blackouts By The Go! Team
Hailing from the seaside resort town of Brighton, England, the Mercury Music Award-nominated sextet The Go! Team released their breakthrough album Proof of Youth, in 2007, earning them a degree of popular and critical acclaim for their amusing syntheses of twee, old school hip-hop, Bollywood music and electronica. After nearly four years of extensive touring at such venues as Lollapalooza and Glastonbury, they return with their third album proper, Rolling Blackouts.
Starting off the album is "T.O.R.N.A.D.O.," a dense, propulsive but very brief explosion of sampled horns and drums, DJ scratches and distorted chipmunk vocals as provided by emcee/female lead singer Ninja. Though the plug is pulled on it before it really develops into anything, the song serves as a perfect overture to what promises to be a severely attention-deficient 40 minutes of music. Up next is "Secretary Song," which though it exemplifies the group's penchant for unbearably cute vocals, is a frenzied, detail-obsessed, nostalgia-ridden Girl Group Pop-a-thon, further fleshed out with dense textures of samples and sound effects, complimented by a wall of sound production aesthetic.
And it just gets better and better from here: "Apollo Throwdown," featuring even more (samples of other bands') lush orchestrations and a spirited shout-a-long chorus, is most noteworthy for its thunderous, complex, groove-obsessed drum arrangements. Perhaps what is most astonishing about these songs is that, though they run about three-and-a-half minutes each, and that each is a densely-layered, seemingly tirelessly worked-upon thing, they are so well paced and tightly structured--no such thing as a "middle eight" here--that most of them feel like 30-second blasts from some kind of rainbow-colored faucet.
Returning to the Spector influence of "Secretary Song," but delving into the late '60s chapter of the story--AM Pop--"Ready to Go Steady" is a pitch perfect paean to G-rated sunshine music (think "Yummy, Yummy, Yummy" by Ohio Express, but somehow slightly cheesier) for which the group even slips in some cleverly disguised, anachronistic vocoder-effects for good measure. After the brief, unnecessary but amusing "Blaxploitation soundtrack" instrumental interlude of "Bust-Out Brigade" comes the album's second single (after "T.O.R.N.A.D.O.") "Buy Nothing Day." Less staggering than the preceding four songs, it is the album's first (abundantly '90s alterna-girl-rock/twee-influenced) straightforward rock song, and certainly less of an obvious choice for a single: incongruous here, though strong nonetheless.
The first actual let-down isn't actually a song, it's the first half of one: "Voice Vr Choice" meanders a bit in its first 90 seconds with a slight grating vocal performance by Ninja and what sounds like a fairly standard issue, phoned-in blaxploitation hip-hop beat--jacks of all trades are rarely masters of any; dilletantes should never commit themselves too fully to one "hat"; that sort of thing--before the track becomes illuminated by dense synth-string samples and the group bring it back somewhat. "Yosemite Theme" is the third of the album's (too many) instrumentals, but it is by leaps and bounds the most dynamic, features some beautifully doleful harmonica playing and definitely the strongest after the brief, cute "Super Triangle."
"The Running Range" feels like the lovechild of "Bust-Out Brigade" and "Apollo Throwdown," though it's actually more of a middle child and, in light of the time-bending effect of a listen to Rolling Blackouts, and the sense that we've already heard this song 3 (Go! Team) minutes ago, it is one of the album's most easily forgettable tracks; the album's fourth instrumental, "Lazy Poltergeist" is a clumsily exacted gentle piece of piano music which feels a bit like filler material. After this sleepy digression comes the tougher, louder title track and closing number "Back Like 8 Track," both of which finds the group, yet again, recycling ideas from the album's first half and relying too heavily upon pentatonic scales. The overall effect is of a weak-ended album, but the vast majority of the songs will surely linger in the listener's memory for a long time after, ensuring Rolling Blackouts' status as a replayable album.
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