Go! Team's blend gains diverse audience


October 28, 2005


Lollapalooza may have had it all over the Intonation Music Festival in terms of sheer spectacle, but for me, the winning moment of the summer concert season came when the Go! Team took the stage at Union Park and a dozen preteen girls from the surrounding neighborhood, fresh out of the swimming pool, joined the absurdly energetic English dance-rockers onstage to gyrate, shimmy and frug.

"Whenever anyone asks me what has been the highlight of all this touring, I always draw on that story from Intonation," bandleader Ian Parton recently said from his home in Brighton. "It was pretty spontaneous, and that's what made it so wonderful."

That vignette also illustrates the Go! Team's winning formula, which has been described as a combination of avant-garde noise rock a la Sonic Youth or My Bloody Valentine and exuberant dance grooves in the style of some of the most fun-loving Motown acts. The group's debut album "Thunder, Lightning, Strike" thus appeals to both indie-rock hipsters and bubblegum-loving kids.

"I was always into noisy stuff alongside the Jackson Five or music from the Charlie Brown cartoons, so it's really from my upbringing," Parton said. "The goal for me wasn't particularly happiness; it was more excitement and something that had a relentless energy to it. I wanted a sound that was in your face -- something you couldn't ignore -- and I wanted to deliver it in an original way."



  • 9 p.m. Saturday
  • Metro,3730 N. Clark
  • Tickets, $15
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  • Like much of the best music surfacing from the underground these days, the Go! Team started as a solo project in the late '90s, with Parton experimenting alone in his bedroom with a sampler and a four-track recorder. "The early days were just about the songwriting process, but there was never any option of me doing it live as a one-man laptop venture. That isn't enough to make it worth watching, in my eyes. I wanted the combination of the punky attitude of a live band -- thrashy and messy -- meeting the freedom of samples and the things you can't do with a guitar."

    Eventually Parton recruited a band for live performances, and though a trio of backing vocalists now join the group in concert, the Go! Team coalesced as a sextet with drummer Chi Fukami Taylor, guitarist Sam Dook, bassist Jamie Bell, keyboardist and guitarist Silke Steidinge and rapper and singer Ninja, whom Parton found through a newspaper ad.

    "That was the one that struck gold. Most of the people we auditioned were too R&B-ish, too Whitney Houston or too Beyonce. It takes a particular person to not care what her peers think and go with these weird skinny kids with guitars. It's quite a clash from what she might normally listen to, but she still had the balls to recognize that there was something different about it and that she wanted to be a part of it."

    Onstage Ninja's irrepressible cheerleading serves as the focal point, and her bubbly energy is infectious. "It's quite handy in a way on a practical level," Parton said, laughing. "She's a nice diversion as we go about moving to the next song and getting into position and getting the guitars tuned and stuff."

    Originally issued in the U.K. last year, "Thunder, Lightning, Strike" was recently released in a new edition in the U.S. through Columbia Records. Because of sample clearance issues, some of the songs needed to be reworked, but the band also had the opportunity to add two new tracks.

    "There were three or four [sample] denials, but it wasn't too bad; there were a few melody changes, which I actually prefer in a way. A lot of the samples come from thrift-store, nothingy records that no one would think of looking at anyway. There's something about those Bollywood soundtracks that I've always loved: You have a 50-piece string section that is always out of tune with each other, and that's a sound you could never recreate."

    Parton also makes brilliant use of well-chosen brass samples. "We get lots of demands for a live horn section, but I've always thought there was something lame about a row of men standing in a line -- it sounds shallow, but I'm into the aesthetic of things as well. I mean, Public Enemy used lots of brass samples, and no one ever asks why they didn't have a horn section."

    After its fall tour, the Go! Team plans to begin work on album number two, which Parton said will be more of a band effort -- within limits. "It won't be a complete democracy -- a lot of things about this sound are particular to me, and I don't think you could get that from six people jamming in a room -- but it will be a combination, and there will be more live vocals on it. It might have a more aggressive dimension to it -- maybe more of a Public Enemy feel, with more noisy guitars and doubly-dutchy kind of tracks.

    "That's what is good about us: We're not like the Darkness or something, where we've done the gag and now it's over. It can go in lots of directions."


    "What the heck were you thinking?" e-mails are fairly frequent here at the Sun-Times pop music desk, but few recent reviews have garnered more of them than my 3-star thumbs-up for Black Eyed Peas' latest album, "Monkey Business."

    Many in the hard-core hip-hop community view the Los Angeles group as a joke, since it turned from a low-rent version of the Roots and "went pop" with the addition of flamboyant frontwoman Fergie (who doesn't help the case with antics such as a recent show where she allegedly relieved herself onstage). Other music fans are turned off by the group's unrelenting hucksterism: They've become a ubiquitous presence in TV commercials ranging from XM satellite radio to Apple computers to Dr. Pepper.

    True enough: That's all fairly annoying. But the bottom line is the Peas make music that is good, dumb fun -- some of the best bubblegum hip-pop since L'Trimm, Tone-Loc or Sir Mix-A-Lot (and forget about MC Hammer or Vanilla Ice). This is a quality that has fallen out of favor in hip-hop, where, with the occasional exception of a Kanye West, artists tend toward the oh-so-serious extremes of gangsta rap or social consciousness.

    Call it a guilty pleasure if you will, but I'm looking forward to the Peas' show at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont tonight, and reviews from the tour say they're routinely blowing headliner Gwen Stefani off the stage. Tickets are $37.50-$65, through Ticketmaster. Call (312) 559-1212.