Review Summary: Party for your right to fightSemicircle
, The Go! Team's latest record, begins with a track called "Mayday" and finishes with one titled "Getting Back Up". This journey from trouble to triumph is representative of the conquering spirit that runs through the album, powered by ebullient marching band horns and drums alongside the vitality and melodrama of the Detroit Youth Choir. As a whole, it makes for an easier listen than their super-sweet previous album, The Scene Between
, while offering a cohesive sound that recalls their debut.
The band has never been very intellectual with their lyrics and they don't start here; their songs have always functioned best as ciphers for their listeners' feelings. Perhaps it's a fluke of timing, but the exuberant mood of the album makes for a pick-me-up much needed after a harrowing 2017. "We got a lot of what it takes to get by," standout track "Semicircle Song" declares, walloping doubters out of the way with its blitz of horns, drums and glockenspiel. On "She's Got Guns", frontwoman Ninja makes a triumphant return, spitting "Got a problem? / Honey, 'bout we take it over there?" while the music stutters around her like an unfortunate adversary. Annelotte de Graff (a.k.a. Amber Arcades) lends her voice to the shoegaze-y "Plans Are Like a Dream U Organise", admitting "Something getting in the way and it's all too much / Something getting in the way and I think it's us" as an electric guitar beeps a path through a swirl of ragged, intoxicating noise.
These are the best songs because they epitomise the album's rambunctious, go-get-'em atmosphere; this energetic air almost makes them feel functional, like fuel you can use to power yourself forward. Other tracks may not have the same heft, but they're still very listenable. The keening vocals of Bandcamp find Darenda Weaver complement chunky drums in "The Answer's No - Now What's the Question?", the Morse code conceit of "Mayday" mixes cutely with a teenage vocalist's plaintive spoken-word cry for help, "All the Way Live" veers between funky and fury with its old-school rap chants, and closing track "Getting Back Up" provides a glowing warmdown of the type the band have always been so good at. The only letdown is "Chico's Radical Decade", an instrumental which strays into territory better covered in previous albums.
"Party for your right to fight!" In the album's press release, bandleader Ian Parton exhorts us to respond to the fractious state of world affairs. In eighteen years, it's probably the most topical he's ever gotten with The Go! Team's music. At the same time, it's a clever inversion of a classic line, underscoring what the band has long been shooting for with its sound. The Go! Team has never come with battles to fight. They've come to help you fight your battles. With Semicircle
, they sling support that's very gratefully received.