Review Summary: Proof of Youth isn’t really a misstep for Indie Pop act The Go! Team, it just doesn’t show many signs of progression.
I’ve always been one of the shy kids, beginning as a younger child who was afraid to ride the bus alone, to a younger teenager who didn’t (doesn’t, really) talk much to anyone outside of his small circle of friends. There were (and are) a host of things I avoid doing, but possibly the most evaded is attending, much less dancing at, school dances. The dance floor, or more accurately put, gymnasium floor, is a place left to the more confident/skilled, or at least those ignorant enough to be believe they are skilled. Yet, hate of such gatherings aside, the urge to dance, or at least tap feet/sing along, at the one Go! Team performance I’ve been to (Lollapalooza 2006) was too great to be ignored (of course the fact that, unlike at, say, a school dance, no one in the entire state of Illinois, let alone in the band’s decent-sized audience, would recognize me was a bit of a comfort). Thunder, Lightning, Strike
, and The Go! Team’s sound in general, seems tailor-made for bringing kids out of their shells; there isn’t a doubt in the slightest Thunder is a pop record, but it’s one made by outsiders and one to be enjoyed by [mostly] outsiders.
In this aspect, Proof of Youth
, the band’s Sub Pop debut, is a true follow up to Thunder, it also features much of the same qualities: the same overly jubilant horns, the same half rapped, half chanted vocals (delivered by charismatic front woman Ninja, among others) and the same ever-so-slightly dissonant, Sonic Youth-influenced guitar. Grip like a Vice
, as a first single and opening trick, serves as the bearer of this news. It features everything a good dance track should: handclaps, rippin’ guitar and lyrics that refer to its listeners as ‘party people’. It’s tough to follow up a single like Ladyflash (off Thunder, Lightning, Strike), but the Go! Team doesn’t do too badly. If there were indie dance clubs, this track would surely be bumpin’ in them. For now, my computer will have to do. As a whole, Proof is much less nostalgic than Thunder. Much of the latter sounded like it could have been sampled straight from a host of before-my-time television show themes. It even featured a warmly lo-fi, vintage sounding production value, adding a bit of a faux-vinyl crunch to The Team’s brand of Indie-Pop. Proof, on the other hand, is much more current sounding.
Second track and definite highlight Doing it Right
continues where Grip Like a Vice left off: It’s an obvious choice for second single, being, without a doubt, one the album’s poppiest tunes. Plus, the choruses, part of which find Ninja and co. repeating “do it, do it, alright”
, are probably the catchiest on the entire album. During the bell-accented verses, Ninja’s rapping sounds more like something you would find on the elementary school’s playground than on a 50 Cent CD, a quality that is consistent with much of the album. Fake ID
, another ultra poppy highlight, throws high-pitched, child like vocals on top of punky guitars and horns/keyboards that sound like they are straight out of the most heroic moment of a Saturday morning Superhero cartoon.
The tracks that branch most from the Go! Team’s tried and true formula are the ones that come towards the end, specifically Flashlight Fight
and I Never Needed it Now So Much
. The former is easily the least melodic, least poppy song on the album. It’s a stellar tune that weaves the typical brass and catchy choruses with a whole lot of guitar noise and a guest appearance by Public Enemy’s Chuck D, whose rapping works surprisingly well overtop the mess of instrumentation. The latter, like Hold Yr. Terror Close before it, is a ballad built around piano reminiscent of the type of thing you’d find in a Charlie Brown cartoon. Guest vocalist Elisabeth Esselink, in turn, ditches the spontaneous, hard to decipher rapping in favor of a much tenderer coo.
The lyrics on Proof of Youth are nearly impossible to make sense of, outside of I Never Needed it So Much (and maybe Grip Like a Vice). It doesn’t help that the majority of the vocals are coated in effects, sung in an accent and mixed a bit lower than normal. Even on stage, Ninja dances, jumps and moves around so much that it’s easier to focus on what she’s doing rather that what she’s singing. This, however, doesn’t really hurt the band’s sound in the slightest. On both Proof of Youth and the record that preceded it, the lyrics take a definite second to the upbeat, exciting music that supports them. The melodies and chants are more than catchy enough, however. Even the album’s instrumental numbers, My World
, an uncharacteristically normal, semi-acoustic interlude, and Patricia’s Moving Picture
, which ends the album in an almost uplifting way, manage to keep up the energy up even without the Team’s most energetic member.
Overall, Proof of Youth isn’t really a misstep for The Go! Team, it just doesn’t show many signs of progression. It’s chock full of the same kind of fun, high-quality songs that Thunder, Lightning, Strike had. It’s also an extremely solid record that comes highly recommended for any fan of its predecessor.