(Memphis Industries, out Fri 19 Jan 2018)
Brighton six-piece The Go! Team are back with their fifth studio album, mashing up more marching band anthems with electronic jiggery-pokery and spoken-word samples to create fun, funky tunes that’ll overwhelm if given half the chance. As their name suggests, Ian Parton and his motley crew place an emphasis on energy and optimism, resulting in breakthrough album Thunder, Lightning, Strike back in 2004.
For this year’s Semicircle, Parton has reassembled the original lineup and trawled the American Midwest in search of the voice of American youth. As a result, we’re dished up an album that is probably as stylistically close to their debut as anything since, featuring contributions from Amber Arcades, Detroit Youth Choir and Darenda Weaver, among others.
Several songs in particular harken back to T,L,S – third track May Day is heavily reminiscent of The Power Is On, Chicos Radical Debate brings back memories of Get It Together and other tracks such as Plans Are Like A Dream U Organise and Tangerine Satsuma Clementine would have slotted in seamlessly on the debut offering, too.
Having said that, the band have moved forward undoubtedly, incorporating far more vocals into their work. When sung (such as on opener Semicircle Song, Getting Back Up and The Answer’s No, Now What’s the Question), these generally serve the record well, tying the various threads of instrumentation together neatly.
The spoken samples aren’t quite as successful; the star sign introductions on Semicircle Song (delivered by individual members of the youth choir) might be charming enough as a gimmick, but they unfortunately detract from the cohesion of the song as a whole. Similarly, the spoken refrain on May Day pleading for “a sign” jars with the energy of the rest of the track and becomes annoying rather than endearing upon repetition.
Of course, this wouldn’t be The Go! Team without some quirks and peculiarities thrown into the mix, and the sound of a ping pong ball rattling around its table and humans imitating cats add to the incongruousness of the spoken word. While these additions do help to cement The Go! Team’s legacy as a fun and frivolous band, they limit the shelf-life of their music and prevent it from reaching the next level. Still, a hugely enjoyable record for fans of their earlier work and a welcome return to form.