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Wednesday, October 26, 2005


The Go! Team - (Wonder Ballroom, 10/24/05)

Once upon a time, I had a college radio show and most of what I played was punk, remixed NES theme songs and other kitsch-drenched relics from the '80s. It was called "The Ritalin Show," and for reasons all too apparent, the only people that tuned in were friends and a dropout that worked the night shift at 7-11 near campus. Sometime during winter term of my junior year, I wasted a positively stupid amount of time trying to make my own music for the show. In one case, I tried to meld together audio clips of Mr. T from "Rocky 3" and a Roots sample on an worn-out Compaq desktop. What resulted sounded like something an eight-year old would slap together on a Fischer Price tape deck.

I was aiming for something like The Go! Team's debut album "Thunder, Lightening, Strike" and missed by a hundred million miles. Pitchfork readers are already familiar with the band, which quickly rode a wave of buzz to a SXSW appearance, a Columbia record deal and almost instantaneous backlash once everyone who doesn't read that barometer-of-all-things-worth-listening-to caught on.

While all the cool people abandoned The Go! Team before its debut disc was ever officially released in the states, I'm still listening to them. Simply put, this music sounds like it was tailor-made for those among us (yeah, myself included) that still eat Captain Crunch and wish that reruns of the Smurfs were still on Cartoon Network. While a track like "Everyone's a VIP to Someone" isn't going to change the world, it's the best example of electro/dance music/dj'ing/whatever I've heard since DJ Shadow blessed the world with "Entroducing." It sounds like a beer commercial mixed with a forgotten Tomorrowland ride soundtrack and, yes, I mean that as a compliment.

"Thunder, LIghtening, Strike" receives at least one spin from me a week and I'm the sort that typically tosses aside Pitchfork recommendations after a single listen. The music which Goodwill samples from piano recitals and cheerleader rallies to long-lost '70s funk, isn't quite like anything I've ever heard. Imagine that jazz theme from the Peanuts remixed with bittersweet harmonicas and machine-gun breakbeats. If this sort of thing isn't up your alley then, well, go back to your Postal Services and 50 Cents, hippie.

But how would something this work as a live show? Unlike most who toe this same Pro Tools line, the Go! Team is comprised of live musicians. The only tricky part is the sampling, which is now handled by lead singer "Ninja," who amazingly matches the rapid-fire free-styling featured on tracks like "Bottle Rocket."

The show at the Wonder Ballroom on Monday night was impressive, if only for the band's ability so squeeze all of its members and two drum sets on the room's cramped stage. In front on a screen loaded with Super-8 footage of Tokyo in the early '80s and American road-trips, the Go-Team blazed through just about every song its come up within its short lifespan.

The Go! Team danced like Devo and Jane Fonda and performed the occasional Daniel-san karate kick. In between songs, Ninja threw out orders at the audience and her band members like a Jazzercise drill instructor at a Piccadilly Circus branch of 24 Fitness. "I WANT TO SEE EVER-E-BOD-E WITH THEIR HANDS IN THE AIR. YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE!" There was also the perquisite Super Friends reference: "GO! TEAM AC-TEE-VATE!" and "WE NEED MAX-E-MUM POWER FOR THIS NEXT SONG!"

"We Just Won't Be Defeated" and a "V.I.P." encore with a live banjo in front of faded footage of a '60s family reunion was nothing short of magical, man. If I had brought along a lighter, I would have waived it back and forth for sure.

Sure it's all cheesy, overly-sincere and not for the faint of heart but I'll take a single Go! Team over a dozen indie rock navel-gazers. If you haven't already heard it, track down a copy of "Thunder, Lightening, Strike." If your soul isn't bouncing around the living room like a 5-year old hepped up on Coco Puffs by track 3, then, you sir, have no soul. At the very least, keep it on hand if you ever find yourself drowsy on a long drive. This stuff will keep wired better than any amount of No Doze or stale coffee.

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