Hailing from Brighton, England, the Go! Team are truly post-modern, taking their members and their music from many sources. In sound and look, they’re the epitome of multi-culturalism: men and women, white, black, and Asian, mixing ‘60s soul, Britpop, early ‘80s hip-hop and ‘70s TV themes into a series of irresistible grooves. Producer and songwriter Ian Parton started the Go! Team as a solo project, then hand-picked musicians to join him. But it’s more fun to imagine that the genesis of the group was a fated, chance meeting, in music class, of an assortment of students who usually sat at different tables in the lunchroom.
It’d be easy to assume that the band’s patchwork sound would end up a mishmash live, a hodgepodge of disparate elements that don’t quite fit. But that’s not the case. Why assume a band can’t credibly sound like Sonic Youth one moment and the Funky Four Plus One the next? Why assume a small Asian girl can’t pound the drums like Keith Moon? Why assume a squad of black cheerleaders wearing track suits can’t front a band of white boys with guitars?
Onstage, chief cheerleader, rapper, and vocalist, Ninja was the center of attention. Athletically sexy as she jumped, kicked, and pranced, she seemed to be the kind of whip-smart girl who always has a clever comeback on the tip of her tongue. Some folks in the audience took to her right away, like the high schooler who evaded the bouncers, jumped on stage, and danced with her before he dived, head first, back into the crowd. Others were less enthusiastic, as they refused her repeated exhortations to dance. Nearly everyone at the show did, at one point or another, wave their hands in the air or sing along, but at times these gestures seemed a bit forced.
Perhaps the less-than-impressed in attendance thought Ninja was trying too hard. The Go! Team make a joyful noise but, despite all their cheerleading, they still tread on the edge of banality. The band looked more like a bunch of high school kids than the latest buzz-worthy signing to a major label. Their youthful energy translates well on stage, and there’s nothing immature about their musical prowess, but in the end, their childish lyrics prevent them from fully connecting.
More than anything else, the Go! Team sounds like the musically striking but lyrically inane groups that recorded for Sugar Hill in the late ‘70s: monster grooves married to sing-song nursery rhymes, or, in this case, cheerleading chants. Such music might work perfectly well in a dance club, or a British football rally. But a concert hall filled with indie rockers is a different story.