This album comes to reviewers with a funny and self-deprecating press release from Get Set Go’s main man Mike TV. In it, TV recounts the early days of Get Set Go, how their little indie label got shafted by the big conglomerates, and his slide into a drug-caused stroke, addiction, and hopelessness. He then marvels at how his band got a second chance when their music ended up on both Grey’s Anatomy soundtracks: “So I contacted the record label, and they said, ‘Yeah, you sick, twisted, drug-perverted junkie, we’d be interested in putting out your oozing, black, runny, catharsis of a record.’” (Well, at least something good has come out of Grey’s Anatomy.) He’s clean now, the band is back, and Mike TV writes a hell of a press release.
And he describes his third album pretty perfectly. Not that this sounds especially oozing or runny; musically, it’s all kind of upbeat nu-power-pop with overlays of garage rock and punk rock and, thanks to Mike Summer’s viola, a touch of country-ass rock as well. (I’m trying not to say “emo” here but, y’know what, it probably applies in a very general way.) The surfaces are mostly sunny, the hooks are plentiful and memorable, and drummer Dave Palamaro is hot shit back there.
This is a great driving album, even here in the Wisconsin snow. “Tighten the Verses” sounds a bit like reggae, a bit like Blink-182, a bit like Queen, and has some cool Beach Boys backing vox. “Sweet Little Kisses” sounds like an unholy cross between the B-52s and the Knack. And “Get What’s Coming to You” is straight-up cowpunk, aggressive and sloppy and thoroughly fun for its entire two minutes and 13 seconds. So don’t expect any black metal sludgecore or agonized howling—Get Set Go is made to make people pogo up and down, even if they are driving through three inches of snow to pick up the kids from Sunday school. (Ahem.)
If there is any real sickness here—and there is—it can be found in Mike TV’s lyrics, which are pretty bleak for a guy whose band is best known for soundtracking the weepy love-starved doctors of Seattle General. Dude is twisted up inside and doesn’t mind sharing the sickness. On “Everybody Get Movin’”, you think you’re getting a typical California story about being stuck in traffic: “Some guy is picking his nose in the car next to mine/ But I think that’s all right because I am picking mine.” But this little new wave song turns evil in a heartbeat: “Looks like there’s an accident/ I’m hoping everybody’s dead/ You heard what I said/ I hope those bastards died a horrible death.”
The stop-start opener “It’s Alright” sums everything up: he knows he’ll never be a huge successful musician, but he thinks that love will set him free, but he knows it really won’t: “Fuck growing old/ Fuck feeling like a failure/ Fuck the songs I wrote/ I’m going home so I can be with you.” Then, of course, he erupts into “I’m tired of suckin’ on your dick, motherfucker/ For buck, but I tell you that it’s all right.” Yipes! Therapy is indicated.
Everything here is tied into anger and frustration, but at least Mike TV has a sense of humor about his anger. In “I’m a Goner”, he falls hopelessly in love with a woman who likes his music—but lines like “Catastrophe waits for me in the form of a girl” and the closing chant of “Oh woe” lets you know that he’s in on the joke. In “The Law of Diminishing Returns”, our screwup protagonist is all jacked up over money and sex: “I scrounge some quarters just to buy some food/ I don’t have the money to be into you.”
As for the creepy sexual politics of “Fuck You (I Want To)” and “It Must Be Love” (with its great opening lines “I want to die every time I see you talk to some good-looking guy/ I want to puke every time I see some guy looking at you”)—well, this unpleasantness is more than offset by the big fat popcraft that went into the hooks that make me still like Mike TV, despite the fact that he sounds like a hot mess.
This is a very great pop record by a very sick man. I will play it daily for years.