It’s probably best not to think too much over Mondo Topless’ Go Fast!. The album aims to be fun and it mostly is. Relentlessly energetic, the album captures a good representation of what I’m sure the band can accomplish live. It’s aggravatingly light, though, amounting to little more than drunken college retro-rock; retro in this case meaning classic stuff like “96 Tears” and “All Day and All of the Night” as opposed to say, “Ramble On”. All of which is fine, and if the band could do it particularly well they would be really noteworthy. As it is, though, it’s mostly insubstantial stuff. Truth be told, not many people I know will be able to cast stones at those who may find themselves drunkenly dancing to music they would otherwise quickly dismiss and that’s about what this album adds up to. Still, odds are that it would fun on your way from a six- to a 12-pack.
The opening track, “No More”, incorporating the album’s catchiest organ line, is more fun than most of the ones that follow. It sounds like any number of other songs but is appealing enough that it’s pretty easy to look past its derivativeness. “Every Day” is the best of the bunch, toning down the over-eager vocals, almost to the point that it could be someone else in the group singing, and sticking to a more straight-ahead stomp. The song is at least somewhat subtle where too much of the album is frustratingly over-the-top. It leaves you wondering why more of the songs couldn’t be as effective. If the band could find a way to strike a more consistent balance, they could combine their undeniable knack for writing party songs with something that’s a little more filling, something that resonates once the album’s over.
The album is full of hooks but they are mostly momentary; they set your toes tapping for the three minutes or so that the song is playing; but once it stops, you can’t remember why you were bopping your head. The disc struggles under the weight of too many throwaway songs. It wears thin pretty quickly as there’s little variation in instrumentation or feel from song to song. The lyrics sit back in the mix and are somewhat purposely obscured. Those that stick out set-up scenes where lies can always be seen in someone’s eyes, where that which makes you want to scream invariably makes you want to shout, and where singers wonder why women can’t see what they’re doing to the suffering rock and roller. Little attention seems to have been paid to much besides putting the songs across with a lot of pep. That’s not necessarily a criticism because most bands can’t even accomplish that and also because I’m not sure that their goal was to create an album that stands up to scrutiny. Enough other bands are turning out much better garage rock, though (notably Thee Shams from Cleveland and Mondo Topless’ Get Hip label mates the Cynics), that it makes having your goal to be to turn out dumb, drunken rockers seem a little pointless.
They seem to be more than a little influenced by the Stooges and while Mondo Topless gets many of the surface details right their core is fairly empty. Front man Sam Steinig’s voice is appropriately gruff and he yells pretty well but he conveys little personality that makes you want to dig any deeper into the songs. Maybe “Panty Sniffer” is a character sketch, maybe it’s just meant to be dumb fun, but really, who cares? With 15 tracks and coming in at over one hour, thirteen minutes of which it must be said are dedicated to their cover of the Stooges’ “Loose”, there is plenty of room for self-editing to have occurred, which didn’t. Maybe if the disc had been made to be a bit more concise it wouldn’t seem quite as redundant from track to track. They could have easily shaved 20 minutes of music off and still gotten their point across just as effectively. I feel like a plastic frames and hoodie-wearing snob for not enjoying the mindless fun that this album is offering, but there’s enough other albums to choose from that are energetic and fun and still have a little bit of depth to offer. Go Fast! doesn’t show much in the way of imagination and doesn’t offer too much evidence that the band is interested in branching out. Too bad.