The names dropped in the British press about the Go! Team's debut album, Thunder, Lightning, Strike, read like some sort of pop-culture all-star team: the Jackson 5, ABBA, Sonic Youth, Salt-N-Pepa, Bollywood, "Rocky," "Sesame Street," "T.J. Hooker" and Grandmaster Flash are all referenced with reckless abandon. And for the most part, all those comparisons are absolutely correct.
Describing the laundry list of influences, styles, instruments and samples present on Thunder would probably be impossible (especially the samples — the album contains so much uncleared material that it won't be available in the U.S. until late September, a full year after it was first released in the U.K.), but it's not like music journos haven't tried.
"Everyone is always trying to put us into some type of category, which just isn't possible," Go! Team frontman/mastermind Ian Parton laughed. "Sometimes our album sounds like a '60s girl group, or action-packed car-chase music ... Sonic Youth, 'Charlie Brown' pianos, it's all there. It's a mixture of clean and sickly — trashy and a bit classy."
Our thoughts exactly. Thunder starts off with the sound of an air-raid siren that quickly explodes into a barrage of crashing drums, ragged guitars and $5 car-chase horns (one can almost see '70s Caprice Classics screeching through hairpin turns or barreling through a produce stand). There are also plenty of hopscotch cadences, little-kid choirs, hand-claps, hip-hop beats, jaunty pianos, bawdy wah-wah guitars and winsome harmonicas. And that's just the first four songs.
"It should never sound like there's 11 different bands playing on the album — you should hear a song and know it's a Go! Team song. It all sort of reflects our musical tastes," Parton said. "Our soundchecks are always really complicated. We've got two drum kits and loads of other instruments: harmonicas, melodicas, keyboards. There's always plenty to go wrong, and most of the time it does. But we want to keep it that way. It always sort of feels like we're teetering on the edge."
Back in 2003, Parton was making sample-heavy tunes in his Brighton, England, bedroom when one of his creations, the bizarro cop-show anthem "Junior Kickstart" started to make the rounds on Britain's multitudinous pirate radio stations. Soon, "Kickstart" caught the attention of the Memphis Industries label, which released it as a proper single late in the year. Parton got to assembling an actual Go! Team lineup soon after, and in 2004, the label released Thunder, the band's debut LP, which became a commercial and critical hit (it's nominated alongside albums like Coldplay's X&Y and M.I.A.'s Arular for Britain's prestigious Mercury Prize).
And for a band that started on a whim by one guy messing around in his bedroom, the Go! Team have come pretty far. They've already made a big splash across the pond — they're playing the massive Reading and Leeds Festivals in England at the end of this month — and now they're preparing to launch their first major North American tour. Parton is understandably excited to take his erratic, eclectic sounds to the masses. But he's got a warning for anyone expecting an evening of highbrow entertainment: Leave your thinking caps at home, and bring your dancing shoes.
"The most important thing is for everyone to come out and dance and have a good time," he said. "We want to put on a show unlike anything people have seen before. We like the idea of being experimental, but we still want to make stuff you can shake your ass to."
Go! Team tour dates, according to the band's publicist:
- 10/14 - Houston, TX @ Engine Room
- 10/15 - Dallas, TX @ Trees
- 10/16 - Austin, TX @ Emo's
- 10/18 - Phoenix, AZ @ The Clubhouse
- 10/19 - San Diego, CA @ The Casbah
- 10/20 - Los Angeles, CA @ El Rey Theatre
- 10/23 - San Francisco, CA @ The Fillmore
- 10/24 - Portland, OR @ Wonder Ballroom
- 10/25 - Seattle, WA @ Showbox
- 10/28 - Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue
- 10/29 - Chicago, IL @ Metro/ Smart Bar
- 10/30 - Toronto, ONT @ Phoenix Concert Theatre
- 10/31 - Montreal, QUE @ La Tulipe
- 11/1 - Boston, MA @ Paradise Rock Club
- 11/2 - New York, NY @ Webster Hall