Review Summary: Thunder, Lightning, Strike is a lo-fi classic; an underrated, overlooked gem that will likely never be replicated.
Theoretically, you could compare anything. This sounds like this, that looks like that, et cetera. What on earth could I compare Thunder, Lightning, Strike
to? Well, it kinda sounds like your 80's Saturday morning-- well not really. Um..uh.. it's got some Sonic Youth influences-- yeah but I wouldn't directly say it sounds like Sonic Youth. My brain hurts. Honestly, I'd go ***ing mad if I tried to categorize this album under a genre. I wouldn't call it rock, a heavy amount of sampling is present. I wouldn't call it hip-hop, unless you can name me a popular hip-hop record with distorted guitars, double dutch chants, and police sirens. If you scroll through my iTunes library, you'll find that Thunder, Lightning, Strike
is not tagged with any static genre, I just put "The Go! Team." And that's the wonderful thing about music in this day and age-- many musical acts simply cannot be confined to one - hell, even multiple, genres.
The conditions under which Go! Team frontman Ian Parton (actually the only man in this "band" at the time) recorded Thunder
are far from traditional. He conceived this idea of jamming all of these sounds he admired together. Shortly thereafter, he took an 80's sampler, 6 microphones, and recorded an entire debut album in his parents' Welsh kitchen. Going for a squished, lo-fi sound, Parton put all the samples through distortion and raised the tape levels into the red. The finished product is a damaged, rusty, dirty-- albeit beautiful record.
As soon as the horns and distorted guitar on the album's opener "Panther Dash" kicks in, you will know exactly what I am talking about. The way the guitar track is interwoven into the police sirens, harmonica, and horns will remind you of the car chase scene in your favorite action movie. Not to say that this would be perfect for an 80's-esque action soundtrack; calling it novelty would be insulting. "Ladyflash" might as well be an anthem for all the ladies in hip-hop, but is that only because it samples Wild Style
? Surely you can't forget about the funky guitar and bass line in the background, the synths that dominate the chorus, "ROMANTIC INTO FANTASTIC!",the cranked-up-to-11 drum track, and your cheesy Hollywood happy ending horns in the track's closer.
What? You want to cool down? Sure. After 7 minutes of action-packed insanity, "Feelgood By Numbers" substitutes loud horns and percussion for a piano track that will put Charlie Brown on the mind and a soothing harmonica. And that's your break. The moment the last chord on the piano is struck, handclaps and chanting resume. The piano starts again, this time playing a darker tune, giving you a feeling of turmoil. Horns. Horns. Horns. ***ing horns.
"The Power Is On" is the atomic bomb in a mass of minor explosions. The comparisons to Sonic Youth come from a riff on this track that I honestly cannot describe on paper.
Along with "Power", "Get It Together" is the centerpiece-- literally and figuratively of the album. Remember that stupid recorder you had to play in grade school for music class? Yeah, Parton samples a recorder, and it doesn't sound nerdy or forced either. The banjo in the chorus(I don't really think I can call anything on this record a chorus at this point, but *** it), combined with the drums and backing guitar, is something you will definitely remember about this record for years to come, if you recall anything. Not to mention the song is widely accepted as the theme to 2008's LittleBigPlanet
Speaking of recurring elements of Thunder, Lightning, Strike
, guess what's back in "We Just Won't Be Defeated" and "Junior Kickstart?" One of the great things about this album is its use of horns almost as a primary instrument, even though they're sampled. They never sound old or overplayed, the record just simply wouldn't be the same without them. And you can't have a noise record without a short interlude; "Air Raid GTR" is self-explanatory-- 40 seconds of a guitar modified to sound like an air raid siren.
The last five tracks of Thunder, Lightning, Strike
could all be closers. "Bottle Rocket" features energetic live frontwoman Ninja rapping like Sha Rock over triumphant horns and chants of "2, 4, 6, 8, 10!" "Friendship Update" starts out as a simple bass line followed by a beautiful piano track and wonderful percussion that supports the melody. "Hold Yr Terror Close" is the 2-minute break from crazy action similar to "Feelgood" that features drummer Chi on vocals and a car horn. Arguably the most popular song on the LP, and a potential commercial single if the album ever had one-- "Huddle Formation" revives the cheerleader chants from "Power" with a subtle but infectious guitar riff. This brings us to Thunder
's actual closer, "Everyone's A VIP To Someone", which plays like the ending to a Hollywood romance film. It's sappy, not that it shouldn't be taken seriously, the song is beautiful.
With that, I believe I've decided what the theme of this album is. The deliberate "striving for irregularity" sound of Thunder, Lightning, Strike
is enough to spawn more than a few dissenters. People who hate it are going to say it's nothing but noise. A large amount people who love it are going to make shallow comparisons, handing more ammo to people who hate it. Thunder, Lightning, Strike
is not something that should solely be considered as nostalgic action theme music, because it is not. This is a perfect album recorded by an actual person that felt he needed to bring something unique to the musical table. To me, that is something extraordinary in a decade that loves southern hip-hop and P2P.