Thursday, September 13, 2007

worth spendin' money on, volume the fourth!

in spite of the shockingly low rating it received from pitchfork earlier in the week, music is rallying this week around the mother of all pointless showdowns - 50 cent's curtis versus kanye west's graduation (apparently, kenny chesney is also a contender). i'm actually stunned at the extent that this has taken over, even making headlines in the associated press. what about the independent albums that have been released? even the usually reliable largehearted boy only gives a handful of 9/11 releases, completely skipping over figurines, simian mobile disco, and what is undoubtedly this week's best album, proof of youth by the go! team. here are my thoughts on the media's collective ignorance of this album: what. the. fuck. here's what they missed: the jump-kick-to-the-face return of the one of the most original bands around.

as with their debut thunder, lightning, strike, the go! team's second album is packing heat - proof of youth is filled with roundhouse punches, car chases, and all the pg-13 violence you can fit in your headphones. after their triumphant explosion into the scene in 2004, the go! team went from being a kitchen recording project to an internationally known headlining band. in order for this to happen, creator ian parton had to find some bandmates. well, the sextet spent some time together on the road, had deep & meaningful discussions, and rocked some parties. then they decided it was time for a new album. but this album would be different, sort of. it would still be as spastic as a yuppie after doing blow in a bathroom, it would be still have crazy funk samples from the 1970s, and it would definitely still make even the most frigid hipster aesthete dance uncontrollably. the big difference? this time, the whole band was invited to the studio. what they came up with, basically, is thunder, lightning, strike: part deux, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

the go! team obviously had one hell of an off-season in recording proof of youth. the album literally crackles - with energy as well as with their endearingly lo-fi, over the top production. proof of youth is 36 short minutes of aural ecstasy, from the opening track (and first single), "grip like a vice" to "patricia's moving picture," a sunny, sample-heavy bon voyage. both "grip like a vice" and "doing it right" sound like singles, and, appropriately, they are. but they aren't proof of youth's best tracks, and you have to dig a little into the meat of the album to find those.

it is generally rare that an album's middle tracks are its best; most albums are top-heavy, packing their best songs into the first ten or fifteen minutes, so you don't realize it's not that good until too late. not so with proof of youth. the album takes off with its fourth cut, "titanic vandalism," a cheer-led funky bass adventure, complete with ninja's requisite demanding "are you ready for more?," to which we can only reply "OH GOD YES! MORE MORE MORE!," while dancing spastically, oblivious to the staring passerbys and baffled policemen (it was a mistake to listen to proof of youth walking to the grocery, i admit it.). "keys of the city" is unmistakably the best cut on the album, three minutes of aural crack. it opens with a rather complacent guitar riff, introducing the jump rope chants of the double dutch divas, before launching into a exultant horn breakdown. the high speed chanting plays best as an instrument, a counterpoint to the angular guitar that reminds you of the best routines of bring it on, sans kirsten dunst and eliza dushku, and avec a bad ass marching band. "the wrath of marcie" is another excellent track, featuring new guitarist kaori tsuchida on backup vocals, an essential melodic counterpoint to ninja's verses. filled with the high-energy horns and clatter of drums that we expect, "the wrath of marcie" is fulfilling in the sense that it makes you want to dance as much as the go! team's other songs, doing exactly what it is meant to.

there's been a lot of noise made about the go! team's chosen collaborators for proof of youth, (including marina ribtaski from bonde do role, the rappers' delight club, and the aforementioned double dutch divas) with the consensus that, except for chuck d's raps on "flashlight fight," they don't really matter. well, they need to get themselves some hearing aids (or study the press material a little more closely). my money says that most reviewers couldn't actually distinguish which tracks the non-chuck d guests were on, and therefore declared their contributions null and void. mid-album cut "universal speech" clearly benefits from ribatski's vocal contributions, as well as the happy-go-lucky elementary school raps of the rappers' delight club (i heard that, and i don't even HAVE press materials.). i guess you do have to listen a bit closely to hear the difference between ninja and ribatski or a bunch of 8 year olds spitting verses... even if some of the go! team's collaborators on proof of youth occasionally get lost in the mix, we should still reflect for a moment - they got chuck fucking d to do a guest spot on what is unmistakably an indie rock album. how bout some fucking props for that? and "flashlight fight" is a great track as well - if the go! team may have buried their other collaborators too deep, "flashlight fight" holds back just the right amount, giving chuck d the perfect amount of room to spit over blaring horns, paranoid sirens, and "gonna fly now" progression.

for all of the criticism it has received, proof of youth is essentially a simple album by a simple band. the go! team aren't necessarily interested in artistic progression and maturing their sound - they want to send listeners into a frenzy, and that's exactly what they do. we don't need to critically analyze how little they've changed since 2004. what we need to do is remember why they make the music they do, and why we listen to it - because it's enjoyable. let loose a little. turn off the interpol. put on your dancing shoes and kick it with the go! team. you can always be young enough to dance - all you need to do is prove it.

the go! team - "doing it right," "keys to the city."

buy proof of youth from sub pop or memphis industries.

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