Meeting somewhere between mid-’80s television shows, early-’70s genre-pic soundtracks, top-shelf Jackson 5, old-school hip-hop, and a turn-of-the-century dance-music aesthetic, the Go! Team comes with all pistons firing. This thirty-six-minute workout is so packed with references and instruments that it’s almost overwhelming. The kitchen sink is in here somewhere, I just haven’t found it yet.
Though the record has been out in the U.K. for more than a year, it was held up in the states by sampling clearance. The record was basically pulled together by Ian Parton, though the group is now six strong. Though there are some very minor changes in the U.S. version, nothing has been altered enough to make any real difference (even the packaging looks the same). There are two new songs, B-sides stuck into the mix, and both – “We Just Won’t Be Defeated” and “Hold Yr Terror Close” – are equal to their peers.
This is still sample-heavy but ultimately playable party music, similar to the Avalanches. But unlike the Avalanches, which has tailored the majority of its music – which would be unplayable live – to the dance floor, the Go! Team’s music has a natural pop-structure that is endearingly basic. “Friendship Update” is such a basic progression it could be mistaken for easy listening if it weren’t for the joyful drums and the horns that kick in halfway through. Even when they are at their most Avalanche-like – the blissed-out soul-laced “Ladyflash” or in the cheerleaders-from-hell sound of “The Power is On!” – the band manages to construct songs that feel as far away as possible from collages. Every sound feels organic within the structure.
That the Go! Team uses so many different styles without descending into any single one is its strongest suit. “Everyone’s a V.I.P. to Someone” invokes the Taxi theme song without being cheesy, and “Panther Dash” kicks in with Leone-style harmonica without going melodramatic. “Feelgood by Numbers” almost sounds like the theme to some quickly canceled live-action Peanuts series. “Junior Kickstart” and “Huddle Formation” start out like regular indie-rock tracks before rendering the comparison absurd with wailing horns or the often-appearing chanting cheerleaders.
The cheerleader motif is obviously connected to the group’s name, and the whole idea of the group seems to be the (as far as I know) unique attempt to take the college marching band/cheerleader sensibility – with its pop references, beat-heavy instrumentation and hyper-tones – into recorded rock ‘n’ roll. I know what you’re thinking: That sounds like hell. But the enthusiasm and nostalgia the band brings to the table is infectious. This is party music in the best sense of the term. Thunder, Lightning, Strike is for people who love music that hits them over the head with the sheer enjoyment of the human ability to rock.