Since its release one year ago, Thunder, Lightning, Strike, the debut album from the Go! Team, has thrived in US indie circles despite being available only as an import. The boisterous Brighton, UK ensemble satisfies the needs imposed by any definition of “music lover”; so whether you like to shake your rump with abandon or knowingly point out the Archie Bell & the Drells guitar lift, chances are the Go! Team will make you smile. Even though the band comes on strong with an arguably transparent gimmick (retro-chic laced with both love and irony), it makes up for any deficiency with teeming tenacity. It’s hard to deny music this effervescent.
Now, after becoming something of an underground sensation, setting it off at last year’s SXSW, and turning down a McDonald’s ad, the Go! Team is finally set to release its Mercury Prize-nominated album in the US. To ignite a tiny quandary within the mind of each person who already shelled out $30 for an import copy last year, Columbia is releasing Thunder, Lightning, Strike with two bonus tracks and new vocals on “Bottle Rocket”. However, it remains unclear whether other moments in the album have been reworked due to sample clearance issues, one of the reasons why a domestic release has been delayed. (In July 2005, Go! Team member Ian Parton told Billboard magazine that “the record will be identical as much as it can”.) That said, there’s a very good chance that, should you want Thunder, Lightning, Strike as it was originally intended, you’ll still have to buy it as an import. (Copies of the finalized US version were not provided ahead of time, most likely due to continued sample clearing.) There’s also a very good chance that you’re sick of hearing about this band, but if you a) don’t buy import albums, b) don’t download albums on iTunes, c) don’t believe the hype, and d) remain intrigued about what the Go! Team has to offer you, then read on. Here’s what you’ve been missing:
The Go! Team’s music — mostly instrumental with scraps of schoolyard chanting, cheerleader ranting, and funky cold medina raps courtesy MC Ninja — is both infectious and incendiary. Everyone’s fantasy persona needs an internal soundtrack, and that soundtrack is what the Go! Team provides, completely free of prejudice. So if your fantasy involves headbands, Ray-Bans, karate kicks, double takes, rooftop-to-rooftop jumps, somersaults, Lee Marvin, or simply some well-timed one-liners, Thunder, Lightning, Strike is the perfect accompaniment, offering themes to nonexistent ’70s cop shows (“Panther Dash”, “Junior Kickstart”), shouted mantras set to cataclysmic rhythm tracks (“The Power Is On”), mash-ups of ’80s dance-pop and ’60s soul (“Ladyflash”), and even mellow excursions into Hot Rats-era Zappa (“Friendship Update”).
Best of all, Thunder, Lightning, Strike offers release, coaxing air guitarists, air horn players, air turntablists, and the all-mighty air drummers to take the stage of their own living rooms. Who’s the most excited for the US release of Thunder, Lightning, Strike? The air drummer who can’t afford imports and doesn’t have access to the internet, that’s who. Behind all the interconnected samples and ideas, behind all the intertwined melodies and giddy playfulness, drummers Chi and Silke are the Go! Team’s reinforced pulse: gregarious and distorted, like Bonham playing in a pep band at the state championship football game. The Go! Team’s heart lies in its ridiculously ecstatic percussion; in turn, the rest of the band is required to stay equally emphatic and blissed-out. Perhaps you’ve never given much thought to the concept of cheerleading, and perhaps you never saw yourself as your own cheerleader. But if you can close your eyes and visualize yourself as a rock star or superhero, surely that alter ego requires some brazen sonic motivation. Why not this? This shit is bananas.