The Groove Seeker: The Go! Team’s Rolling Blackouts

On a weekly basis, The Groove Seeker goes in search of killer grooves across rock, funk, hip hop, soul, electronic music, jazz, fusion, and more.

The Go! Team: Rolling Blackouts (Memphis Industries, 2/1/11)

The Go! Team: “The Running Range”

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Originally Ian Parton’s solo home-brewed music project, The Go! Team became a six-member band upon the release of its debut, Thunder, Lightning, Strike, in 2004. As Parton put together a group to perform the music live, the pieces fell into place, and the band quickly became the highlight of international music festivals.

After running into copyright issues surrounding TLS’ samples, The Go! Team released Proof of Youth in 2007 — a sophomore-slump-dodging record that proved that Parton’s distinct patchwork funk pop was not a fluke. Four years later, the Brighton, England-based sextet is back with Rolling Blackouts, a rambunctious effort that leans toward ’60s-inspired pop. Building off its trusted template with a slew of guest vocals, including Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino and Deerhoof’s Satomi Matsuzaki, the team’s upbeat blend of garage rock, hip hop, and noise pop sounds as refreshing at it did when Parton began.

Coming right out of the gate with the high-energy lead single “T.O.R.N.A.D.O.,” The Go! Team’s resident emcee, Ninja, spits out the track’s title letter by letter. The soulful horn samples are taken from “Beaten Metal” by Antibalas and coat the track with a schizophrenic groove so meticulously spliced up that it begins to resemble an actual live brass section. In addition, Parton’s choice to include minor-chord phrases instead of major ones gives the track a darker feel. The song is definitely a heavy hitter from start to finish, with Ninja’s rapid-fire rhymes making it all the more frantic.

But it’s the infectious, ’60s sing-song tune “Secretary Song” that sets the tone for the rest of the album. Sampled typewriters and office bells provide the percussion for the tune while Matsuzaki provides just the right vocals; her saccharine voice is a perfect fit for the thickly layered pop chords and hooks.

The Go! Team seems to switch back forth between loud and brash and sweet and poppy. But if there’s one unifying factor, it’s that the band has become a connoisseur of the melodic hook. “Buy Nothing Day” may very well be the album’s standout track. Cosentino helps drive home the California-surfer vibe, casually crossing between verse and hook with little effort.

But then there is “The Running Range,” a track with as much energy as the rest, but with half the chaos. The London African Gospel Choir injects the track with a stirring vocal performance that offers a break from the band’s old-school schoolyard rap. The result is one of The Go! Team’s most accomplished arrangements to date, reaching a mature sound that is as inspirational as it is catchy.

The mid-tempo instrumentals take the group a bit out of its comfort zone; unfortunately, they’re some of the shortest tracks on the album. “Super Triangle” and “Lazy Poltergeist” demonstrate the refined side of The Go! Team, and the tracks’ stripped-down simplicity makes for a nice change of pace. Though The Go! Team’s cheerleader chanting might get old to some listeners, it’s becoming a smaller element in the band’s evolving sound. Still pushing genres and making the crossovers seamless, The Go! Team’s Rolling Blackouts is a welcome addition to an already notable catalog.

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