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The Go! Team - Thunder Lightning Strike

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Artist: The Go! Team

Album: Thunder Lightning Strike

Label: Memphis Industries

Review date: Oct. 7, 2004


Big beats can aim to inspire a lot of different emotions, but rarely do they shoot for wistfulness. The Go! Team hit that feeling over and over on their debut, Thunder Lightning Strike. They emerged a few years back with the single "Get it Together", included here, along with material from other early EPs. "Get it Together" starts with a thudding hip hop beat, then weaves in a pennywhistle that could come from a toddler television show. The turnaround is like a Jackson Five hit, with tight strumming and bells. The song fades, drops the sweet parts, and comes back with old school scratching, revealing that the giant beat never stopped.

Thunder Lightning Strike is a tour of the musical flourishes that sit cozy in the subconscious of anyone exposed to the last 30 years of pop culture. Whooshing disco strings, network sports show horns, Charlie Brown piano, double-Dutch chants, and the lonely harmonica from 70s kitchen-sink drama all make appearances. The collage technique is akin to mash-up, but the effect is nearly opposite. Whereas Soulwax seeks to delight the listener with the sudden recognition that very different pop touchstones fit well together, The Go! Team's references are hard to place. It's difficult to tell what's sampled, and what they wrote themselves. Each time a song shifts, there's a shudder of recognition. Pictures prove that The Go! Team are a band, but they sound for all the world like a desktop creation.

And who knew that Sonic Youth's clattering guitar would fit so well with all this TV show detritus? They cram in so many styles it could easily come across too clever, like a band that claims to be equally inspired by Wu Tang, Cheap Trick and Cher. It doesn't happen. The tracks have a life apart from the name-that-tune layering that drives their sound.

It helps that this is essentially an instrumental record. Lyrics would have brought in an air of calculation, like they were trying to fluff up song writing with market-tested fills. Instead, they serve up so many layers of fluff, it's obvious that it should be consumed quickly, without much thought, before it collapses. The vocal layers are murky, emphasizing the misty eyed feeling. The vocal parts that do exist are shameless: "Fly Guy" era rapping and lots of "yeah yeah yeah" hooks. Pushed below the instruments, they seem like phantoms, like memories dredged up by the foreground disco beats.

The Go! Team are relentlessly referential, but have pursued it to the point that a personal style has emerged. As individual songs, these tracks are charmers. Taken as a whole, they have even more to offer. Thunder Lightning Strike is like walking back into elementary school as an adult; details are missing, people are gone, but you still can't wipe the smile off your face.

By Ben Donnelly

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