The Go! Team
Thunder Lightning Strike
he Go! Team have a knack for making the complex sound simple. As many layers and samples—and things that you think are samples but probably aren’t—as they pile on top, nothing can detract from the fact that the 10 songs on Thunder Lightning Strike have a very simple structure at their core.
It’s in this respect that their lush, gorgeous collages diverge from, say, The Avalanches, and place them more akin to the pre-fab cut-and-paste jobs Saint Etienne used to be so fond of, at least in spirit if not precisely the results.
Despite the wry self-deprecation of calling a track “Feelgood By Numbers” and delivering a charming, throwaway two-minute instrumental, this album is, more appropriately, feelgood by stealth. It’s music to be happy to that achieves this end without jumping up and down and tediously exhorting the listener to be happy.
In the 35 minutes it takes to get from the opener, “Panther Dash” to the closer, “Everyone’s A VIP To Someone”, you could be forgiven for having half-forgotten memories of 80s TV themes, 70s easy listening classics and advertising jingles come to mind. But it’s a comforting mix, and its assembled with a great deal of care and sequenced with such skill that you won’t even realise how happy it is, because its charms really do sneak up on you.
Possibly the unhippest musical instrument ever, the recorder, manages to sound glorious overlaid on the plinking drums and riffs of “Get It Together”. Brass, strings or harmonica fit for aforementioned 80s TV themes are all over “Panther Dash”, “Junior Kickstart” and “The Power Is On”.
The repetitive chants and samples of “Ladyflash” (“we’re here to rock the microphone!”) and “Bottle Rocket” (“c’mon everybody, let’s rock this right!”) make for the most straightforwardly feelgood moments, but work because the combination of a whole slew of extremely dated sounds—all from different eras—abound, giving the record a sense of simple playfulness. “Ladyflash” in particular, with its 60s vocal samples, airy, bright strings and fake 90s dance drums and twinkles, is a repeat-worthy highlight.
Even the straightforward, jerky chugga-chugga rhythm of “Huddle Information” is saved from oblivion by an almost perky bassline and children chanting and clapping. It is the Go! Team at its most rousing, and leads wonderfully into the closer, “Everyone’s A VIP To Someone”, with western soundtrack harmonica, short bursts of looped piano and an overwhelming atmosphere of sweetness, not even broken by the unexpected clattering percussion in the middle section, which takes the track out from an easy-listening come-down into the clouds.
I’d imagine Thunder Lightning Strike will not age well nor reward a thousand listens, but for what it attempts to do, and succeeds, it’s worthy of attention. It’s useless second-guessing a record’s worth in the terms of what it’ll sound like in twelve months’ time, in 2004, this sounds glorious and heart-warming, and that’s more than sufficient delivery on its promise.
Reviewed by: Edward Oculicz
Reviewed on: 2004-10-25