“Easy on the ears” is a good way to describe The Go! Team. Irrelevant would also be fair. Originally a sort of bedroom project of mastermind Ian Parton, The Go! Team’s debut album Thunder, Lightning, Strike was exciting, original, and a joy to listen to. Had Rolling Blackouts been released a year later, it could have been seen in the same light as the classic debut. But it is not 2005, and Rolling Blackouts is no classic.
Instead of continuing his homegrown experimentation, Parton recruited a band to play live dates once Thunder, Lightning, Strike saw acclaim, then took three years to release the forgettable follow-up Proof Of Youth and another four before this new release. Yet the sound remains stuck in the same gear as the original album, showing little growth or recognition that his audience has aged, the music scene around him has changed, and people rarely would listen to Thunder, Lightning, Strike for any reason besides good-times nostalgia, anyway.
That isn’t to say Rolling Blackouts isn’t without its pleasures. The brief “Super Triangle” captures the 70’s sitcom theme song vibe first brought forward on Thunder, Lightning, Strike‘s highlight “Everyone’s a V.I.P. to Someone.” Album opener “T.O.R.N.A.D.O.” is a pleasant diversion, as well, and shows de facto front-woman Ninja’s ability to command an audience’s attention — not to mention her spelling skills. She’s a double-threat. She does not have the talent to burn herself into the listener’s memory, however; most of the songs on which she contributes come off as pleasant, but are quickly forgotten once the record stops spinning.
Parton is better when he is on his own. Guest-singers can reduce his tunes to cheerleading anthems, but “Yosemite Theme” and “Bust-Out Brigade” show how much more affecting and successful the songs are as instrumentals. The latter begins with a heavy horn lead, whistles (not Peter Bjorn and John; like British police officer from the 19th century) and delves into an earworm of a melody. And just when you expect half-baked rapping to ruin the song, it never comes. There is some slightly inaudible human noise that occurs in the background; an aural manifestation of fun. After all, what else would be better to party to than something that sounds like people partying? And it’s brief. It doesn’t linger along for enough time to become annoying.
Sadly, most songs on Rolling Blackouts do. “Voice Yr. Choice” and “Back Like 8 Track” not only fail to grab the listener, they also ramble on and on and on. These criticisms might all seem a little harsh, especially for a record that can act as a serviceable background-sound for some other, more interesting activity. But Ian Parton is capable of more, and his poor decisions and lack of forward-thinking will keep The Go! Team from being more than a great live act unless change is sought for their next record. Hopefully, we can expect its arrival sometime before 2015.