I really expected to be reviewing the new Death Grips today, but you know how that goes. Instead I figured I'd go back and take a look at this, which came out a few days ago, and I guess had actually been going through a really typical album release cycle, with trailers and a single and such, but I was... completely unaware. Such is 2015! Such are my current tastes, which, although not entirely limited to hip hop, are at least 90% occupied by them.
Still, The Go! Team has been one of my favorite bands of this genre - bombastic indie-rap-rockatronica? - for geez, probably close to a decade now. I first heard them up at my cottage, when my older cousin lent me his iPod. I first heard a whole lot of bands that weekend... it was an old bricky first-gen iPod, and it was mostly just an assortment of singles. I think I listened to The Go! Team cause the name sounded appealing, and I was instantly hooked. I remember really clearly listening to "The Power is On", "Huddle Formation", and "Bottle Rocket" on repeat, lying in bed, feeling at some sort of absolute peak indulgence... I was still in a sort of dadrock elitist phase, and part of me probably resisted actually liking music like this, but that almost made it more addictive, I think, the feeling that on each listen, I could possibly break myself free, that I could quit, but then, at certain points in each song, knowing that I couldn't, that I'd immediately indulge again. I lay there listening to them until the battery went dead.
Even though I've now fully given in to a love of basically every genre of music, The Go! Team has retained this form of addictive indulgence. Although every LP in their discography has a cohesive, consistent quality and function wonderfully as full-length experiences, I would quickly gravitate towards having two or three songs that I especially liked, and blast them on repeat. On Proof of Youth, "Grip Like a Vice", "Titanic Vandalism", and "Flashlight Fight" provided needed punctuation between repeated plays of In Rainbows (especially totom's "way better than it has any right to be" mashup "Grip like a Reckoner"). Rolling Blackouts' "T.O.R.N.A.D.O.", "Rolling Blackouts", and "Back Like 8 Track" still had this raw, almost physical, addictiveness, despite that album's generally moving in a more restrained, sophisticated direction. On the years between releases, I'd dive into the b-sides and find the godly treasures of "We Just Won't Be Defeated" and "Milk Crisis".
Looking back at it, I wonder if my love for these tracks were actually the first proto-manifestations of the feeling I now know as moe. There's something almost dizzyingly cheerful about the aesthetics and themes of the music, an all-in blitz of friendship, discovery, innocence, joy. Much has been said about the jumprope-chant/friends-freestyling/cheerleader-cheer/garage-band-jam fusion that actually makes up the music, but has anyone ever noticed how similarly it functions to denpa music? Or how, in the way that they're able to impart the pleasures of these games and pastimes, they're pretty similar to how SoL anime imparts the pleasures of a high school girl's life? Or maybe people haven't remarked on this for good reason, lol.
Okay but regardless, I really like this sort of music, and it feels like the same sort of indulgence as moe anime. And like moe anime, it'd probably be pretty hard to get into words exactly how it functions, and it would probably be a whole lot of words if I was actually able to. So let's just listen to the album and see what we get from that.
The Go! Team - The Scene Between
1. What D'You Say?
Much different than "what'd you say?". Sounds like... a bottle of pop being poured, and almost a Hot Sugaresque quality to it. And yeah, here we go, full force, the band coming in dense and heavy. And those lovely distorted vocals, bending right out of the comprehensible... "And all the hours I laid in bed?" Unsure. Ah, I like the shift at 1:30, this song has an ambiguous structure which I like. There's something self-annihilatory in lofi or noisy recordings, and I know I won't be able to get that into words lol. Oooh, this instrumental jam sorta thing at 2:40ish is NICE, I love the horn sound. This is nice, nice and cute. Makes me wish it was nicer out and my bed was outside on some lawn. And bird and stuff there too. S
2. The Scene Between
Title track here we go. This tape lead in is sorta like harder better faster stronger lol but just for a second. Ahhh, this is so nice... a parade sorta feel. Or the feeling of playing a song in the car that you just recorded in the garage you took the car from. Her vocals seem really crystalline here. Lots of seasonal themes! I love that! Oh snap, is this album also about the secret fifth season??? like that Harmonium album I love???? Ohh the skittering sounds at like 1:30 are pretty cool. I like how they continue. "From the wall to the window" IS THIS "GET LOW"? Wow this is my jam though I love the non-word vocals. That rhythm is sick. When the chorus came back at 3:00 I had a moment of "hell yeah", anticipating future listens already. Haha I am already singing along to this. I just can't not. *
3. Waking the Jetstream
Oh wow this is completely different now lol. This is nice, pretty subdued, but still jammy. It's picking up pretty fast. "All the people who never try/All the people who do/Everybody on the moving train/All their feelings too", Idk hmm, there's a denpa quality to the messages of this band. Where you're just like "yeah!!" but you don't really feel like you've engaged any of your cogitative whatever. This is nice, this feels really well put together. But it's lacking the, uh, I dunno, kineticism of other tracks, maybe, the colourfulness. Ooh, the "Carry on" is a CLASSIC Go! Team move, just that sort of transition. And now they double down on the chorus, this is pretty nice, it has lots of good ideas. But idk. S-
4. Rolodex the Seasons
Little transition track thing I guess. Hahaha this is pretty nice though. Feels like a little roadside jam thing, with a hat out front for money. Soundtracking other peoples' travels. Kinda ragtimey. Reminds me of the second track on that Harmonium album I mentioned earlier. Cute! S
Hooooooooly, okay, this has a sort of Number Girl sorta drive to it. Where it feels like the band should only be able to play like 5 seconds of it before passing out lol. Ah, it's getting saner again though. I have nooooo idea what the lyrics are lol. I'll look em up later. "It's nothing that you feel, cause nothing else is real"? Something like that? Ah at 2:00, they swing back into the "full jam" sorta effect, that's nice. The rhythms are real good and tight. Okay good. S-
6. Did You Know?
Wow this is a classic sounding phone lol. Ahh, her vocals are pretty sweet here, I am getting some sort of denpaish fever from them. And the twinkling piano notes are nice too. This has a sort of organizational aspect to it that seems atypical of the band? Like, in the patterned lyrics and such. It's really sweet and vaguely melancholy. There is a space for fleeting melancholy in this sort of aesthetic, a space for longing. "You're the echo in my mind", that sort of thing. The non-lyrical vocals on this album are super good, like, all "au" sounds, I love it. I think there's a subtle vocoder sorta sound on her voice, I like it. The chime type sounds are good too. And oh man I love the drums on this album, listen to the density and heaviness of the fills, that's awesome. S-
7. Gaffa Tape Bikini
Hahaha this sounds like an intro sample for a Death Grips song. Here comes MC Ride ala Chuck D on Proof of Youth! IT'S SO FUCKING DARK IN HERE! COME COME etc etc okay sure.
8. Catch Me on the Rebound
Another classic Go! Team sorta sound, with everything lo-fi except for wacky wacky synths. The aesthetics of this album seem really up-front, idk, I guess they always were. There's a certain straightforwardness to their songwriting that they deliberately foreground, I love that, like, I think it also makes it way cooler when they do something more experimental in structure, you really notice it. This is nice, nice and jammy, I like how the synths drop out and the band comes in in more force, gives it a good sense of progression. A+
9. The Floating Felt Tip
This sounds like... the outro of a Crystal Castles album. Huhhh? Woaahhaahhaaha they tricked me pretty hard with that one. Now it's closer to some anticon stuff. I have no idea what to make of this in terms of the thematic-aesthetic.
10. Her Last Wave
Nice kalideoscope sorta sound, her vocals sounding full-on shoegazey. Actually there's a few really shoegaze elements here... the way the guitars swell into each other, the drums feeling really crashy and the amount of reverb on the cymbals... This whole sense of the thing being both static and drifting. I would never have guessed they'd cross over into any sort of shoegaze thing but I can't say I don't like it. I guess her last wave is a slow one ha ha ha. Wait no that band is called Slowdive, Slow Wave is a webcomic about dreams. Again I can't really make out the lyrics but they all seem to do with the ocean and waves and such which I think has a lot of aesthetic potential in this context. I'd say the really un-shoegazey aspect is the speed of the drums, but it sounds really good here. This is nice, not what I expected, but very nice. S+
11. The Art of Getting By (Song For Heaven's Gate)
Haha what? What is this title? This seems way too serious. And oh man these vocals??? And the classic piano sound, the claps, but like... they're moving towards tradition and experiment at once. Haven's Gate like, the cult, though?? Woah the part at 0:50 is pretty sweet, I love those vocal rhythms. The structure of this song is strange, one of those ones where it feels like all hooks and bridges but you don't know which is which. I'm not complaining, though. My favorite part, hands down, is the "Hiding in the grass, diving into the future" part, or whatever she's saying. That might be my favorite part of the whole album hahaha. Woah the way they shifted the vocals at 3:20 is pretty clever, it has a sort of classical brilliance to it. Solid track. S+
12. Reason Left to Destroy
What an ambiguous title! So many ways to parse it. And this low horn warbling. OH OK. WOW. Okay I REALLY like how this sounds. Perfect shoegaze pearly gray sort of sound, but with more energy. Yeah yeah I'm really feeling this one. The way it progressed is near perfect, too. The way the more energetic elements are forefronted but all the gazey elements are still there. Wow yeah and at 2:40 when they fuse more together again, that's a sick sick effect. Ahhh, and the way they fade out without reducing anything, that's nice, that's a good ending. *
That was good, but not as moe
Hmmm... I got to thinking, while I was listening to this... it's been over 10 years since Thunder, Lightning, Strike! Like, rapper Ninja was 21 when it came out. Now she's 32. I don't think anyone should expect someone to want to make the same rap music they made at 21 when they're 32. And I don't think it's really surprising or bad that she wasn't a huge presence on this album. I can't find any stats on how old Kaori Tsuchida is, but I think it's an absolute miracle that her voice was able to stay as it is for 10 years (and perhaps a great tragedy that she didn't become the greatest multilingual VA the world has ever known).
At any rate, it makes perfect sense that the band is moving in directions that are more "adult", more "sophisticated", because there comes a time when you probably can't keep making high school football halftime music... kinda... like, obviously John Hughes never had to stop making those comedies (his choice in changing is pretty inexplicable), Charles Schultz was never too old to make Peanuts (until he truly was...), but the tragedy of music is such that, at a certain point, a quality of disingenuousness is apparent in the sound itself.
But idk at the same time most of my favorite parts where when they were most like their old selves, when they aimed for their original sound... they hadn't actually gotten any worse at it! You wouldn't have guessed that 10 years had passed! But that, too, might be a bit of a tragedy, and that's maybe the real reason why I'm glad they're branching out, filling the places where the old style would have been unsustainable: it's ultimately a wonderful, creative, experimental act! I remarked something similar back when Rolling Blackouts came out, and it seems like this is the direction of the band - to find a new direction, to expand on their old sound. The forays into shoegazey and distortion-heavy elements on this album are fantastic new steps.
So overall, I might be disappointed that there were no immediately addictive bangers that I had to physically restrain myself from repeating in midst of the album, but that doesn't mean that they won't emerge later. And what they did provide me is still bold and interesting and wonderfully sincere.