The Go! Team riskily walks a fine line, combining radically different elements in their latest release. This isn’t the risk of failure in the sense of ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ but the risk of being misunderstood or misrepresented. After 2005’s Thunder, Lightning, Strike, it’s clear that The Go! Team’s magic equation is a success.
That equation remains largely the same on Proof of Youth: late ‘70s toasting, post-punk guitar, and horn samples from imaginary espionage flicks collide to create a “Sesame Street” in the South Bronx where the stories aren’t sung by school children, but orchestrated by hipsters. When these entities fail to mesh though and mastermind Ian Parton crosses that fine line, what was originally imaginative fusion becomes self parody. “I Never Needed It Now So Much” sounds like a discarded Fiery Furnaces take, while “Fake ID” insists upon following its already grating melody with the overdone sounds of a xylophone. It also appears that The ‘Team has not learned from previous mistakes, again including filler instrumental tracks (“My World”, “Patricia’s Moving Pictures”).
While the payoffs may be few and far between, they make it all worthwhile. “Flashlight Fight” features Chuck D’s gruff baritone as a nice counter to the female gang-vocals on the chorus. Parton is certainly playing to D’s strengths—complete with the brass section mimicking sirens, a la “Rebel Without a Pause.” The result is a track that far surpasses anything on Public Enemy’s latest release How You Sell Soul….
“Grip Like A Vice” is thus far my pick for single of the year…that is, until “Wrath of Marcie” is released as such. Both tracks are able to strike that insatiable balance of soulful dance-ability without sacrificing any of their edge. The Go! Team proves that the aesthetic of No Wave guitar noise alongside break-beats is not necessarily just some passing fad. However, care needs to be taken with this delicate mixture if they wish to see the day when it’s recognized as more than just novelty.