By Samuel Peirce
Artist: The Go! Team
Label: Memphis Industries
Release Date: January 19, 2018
The Go! Team is the brainchild of English songwriter Ian Parton. Since 2004, the Brighton-bandleader has assembled various talents of varying backgrounds to create vibrant pop that is usually rife with a fun attitude. Parton’s project is all over the place musically, incorporating everything from funk, hip-hop and 60s soul to film score-like compositions and cheerleader chants, all while maintaining a general indie pop sheen akin to contemporaries like The Apples In Stereo and of Montreal. It only seemed natural then that the group’s fifth album, SEMICIRCLE, would be more of the same. For the most part, it is. This time, however, Parton and co. have seemingly become a high school marching band that’s gone rogue and created its own original music.
The horns, flute, and others are a welcome addition to the array of instruments on the album. The first track, “Mayday”, starts with a frantic beep and pouncing drums. A funky bassline subtly moves along under the noise, and there’s even some sitar. But the song is really carried by the big brass. It essentially sounds like the music for a non-existent action TV show from the ‘70s, and in some parts sounds vaguely like the theme from Rocky. If they ever made a “Baby Driver 2” this would surely be in it, but I digress. It’s an up-tempo action-packed romp that starts the album off right.
“Semicircle Song” has more of a sporting event feel to it with its use of brass and steel drums. The vocals in this song, as well as a few others, are even sung by secondary school students; Parton recruited members of the Detroit Youth Choir to perform on the album. This youthfulness helps solidify the “Friday night football” aesthetic Parton was aiming for. It’s a mid-tempo anthem complete with an air of self-pride that’s probably best exemplified in the lyrics “C-L-A-double-S / Something you just can’t better”. What does that spell?! You get the idea. All jokes aside, though, this is another standout track on the album. The melody coupled with the Youth Choirs harmony really make this a sweet tune that’s a bit reminiscent of something like the Jackson 5.
“All The Way Live” and “She’s Got Guns” both find the group revisiting old-school hip-hop flavors. The former’s vocals are sampled from a 1981 rap performed by the senior class of a Chicago high school. The rudimentary rhymes delivered in near ABCB scheme exude the style of The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rappers Delight”. The latter’s swaggering bars via former Go! Team member Ninja are spit with just the right level of sass and playfulness, the songs vibe as a whole conjuring up imagery of a mid-’2000s house party. It’s the sound I’d expect to hear in a snowboarding game for the Playstation 2. Admittedly, these aren’t my favorite tracks, but they’re campy fun the first time around, and what appeal they do have owes a lot to, again, the big brass sound. Of course, if you’re needing a break from the saccharine pop dominating this album, these should be good palate cleansers.
“The Answer’s No – Now What’s The Question?” is the most standard sounding on SEMICIRCLE. It’s about as strictly indie pop as the album gets, and it’s another one of my favorites. A song about summer should sound bright and sunny, and this one surely meets those requirements. It’s percussively powerful like the tracks before it, but also of note is the arpeggiated guitar playing melodically and dynamically with the beat, evoking a sort of 60s mod-rock feel a la the Who. The song is also laden with many bells and whistles. Well, bells at least. There’s a nice little interlude with a guitar solo and sleigh bells chiming. If you’re thinking this would sound Christmas-y, you’re right.
Aside from a couple lackluster instrumentals here and there, the album is a very fun, very catchy cavalcade of sensational fanfare. At times, it might air too much on being an overtly positive, all-in-this-together pep rally, but I think anyone with a modicum of heart can find something to enjoy here. SEMICIRCLE is an energetic collection that’s equal parts pastiche and party playlist.