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The Go - Fiesta

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Artist: The Go

Album: Fiesta

Label: Burger

Review date: Mar. 7, 2013

Everyone appreciates a comeback, even one that perhaps wasn’t requested in the first place. Detroit’s The Go were among numerous also-rans of the fairly brief late-1990s garage-rock sweepstakes, which found bands such as The Strokes, The Hives, The Mooney Suzuki and others eating expense-account sushi and bathing in the limelight, apparently all in the name of the true rock gospel or whatever. The Go debuted in 1999 with the Sub Pop-released Watcha Doin’, and despite a Motor City pedigree, a seemingly firm grasp of all the "correct" influences, and even a little help from that era’s ultimate shooting star Jack White, The Go never seemed to capture the attention of its would-be fan base. Yes, it had plenty of fuzz guitars, and the boys certainly already had a look, but Watcha Doin’ seemed both too familiar and easily forgettable.

Undaunted, the band has hung together for close to two decades and — with the release of the double LP Fiesta on Burger Records — proven that while time and perseverance don’t necessarily guarantee commercial success, they can certainly lead to commendable artistic breakthroughs. Fiesta plays as a sprawling 20-track collection of snapshots from one band’s very large, fastidiously curated record collection. The ability to synthesize one’s influences — too at once honor them, have fun them with, and avoid unimaginatively cloning them — isn’t easy, and for all but the most inspired artists takes time. Where The Go’s early musical attempts were marred by then fashionable production trends and suffered from well-intended but ultimately uninspired pastiche (a problem they had started to tackle by 2007’s Howl on the Haunted Beat You Ride), Fiesta largely succeeds.

The Go are still paying considerable tribute to their 1960s and ’70s influences, but there’s a relaxed, playful vibe on here that alludes to a band no longer concerned with its grade in the contemporary rock ‘n’ roll muster. Tracks such as "Girls in Trouble" and "It Always Happens to You" are pure AM radio pop and wouldn’t sound out of place there if not for the band’s consideration of how to deal with coke whores and DUIs. There’s a nice long-haired power-pop vibe on "No More Stars"; "I’m a Dot in a Place" and "So Let’s Pitch," with their stoned wah-wah grooves, recall the James Gang’s more heady moments. Nothing on Fiesta should feel too out of reach for the average listener raised on the twin staples of oldies and classic rock radio. Credit that to both homework well done and a smart use of the studio to give the album a meticulously authentic period feel that adjusts to the genre needs of each song. In fact, the individual tracks here are distinct and inspired enough ("Dirty Room" even employs a rocksteady rhythm) that one might momentarily think they’re listing to a Finder’s Keepers or Past and Present compilation.

Admittedly, for as much as Fiesta displays the confidence of a band that has genuinely grappled with its influences and are all the wiser for it, The Go aren’t exactly out of step with current underground trends, either. You can hear these sorts of influences everywhere today: from Chin and Chapman glam to shambling psych-tinged pop to stoner blues and pure power-pop. A couple of songs so strongly call to mind Black Lips that one is forced to ponder the eternal chick-or-egg dilemma. The difference is that while 15 years ago The Go might have seen itself in direct competition with Black Lips or a Mount Carmel and been spooked out of following its muse, this time around they remain focused, and sound genuinely accomplished. They’re writing songs that they would want to listen to; others folks just might like them as well, but it’s mostly irrelevant.

By Nate Knaebel

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