Not even the clattering, crashing title of The Go! Team’s U.S. release can prepare you for the funky, blue-sky scribble of Thunder, Lightning, Strike. Re-released here in the states a year after its U.K. debut, Thunder, Lightning, Strike is all rowdy, rollicking dance pop laced with everything from harmonica to recorder. The catchy and unabashedly cheery album makes the Michigan Cheerleading halftime routine seem like a half-hearted farce.
The six members of the band utilize a wide assortment of instrumentation and a variety of background sounds. The feisty lady MC Ninja, guitarist Ian Parton, bassist Jamie Bell and banjo man Sam Dook all hail from the U.K. Japanese-born percussionist extraordinaire Chi and German-born keyboardist Silke flesh out the group’s sound and give the band an international credibility not seen since Mark Cuban’s Dallas Mavericks.
Can’t imagine what a band like this would sound like? Think of a dance squad tossed into a blender with Tito Puente and the Jackson 5. Add to that mix a drum machine, an air raid siren and a whole lot of bells and whistles and you’ve got The Go! Team.
Even on the darkest of days, this album can easily coax a smile out of the most skeptical listener. As soon as strains of “Panther Dash” come flying out of your stereo at top speed, you’ll be drawing the blinds and starting a dance party.
A few harmonica squeals and some retooled guitar riffs reminiscent of the California coast add to the crash-bang charm of the first few tunes. Silke and Chi have a regular percussion duel on the showy “Ladyflash,” and the whoop and holler of “Air Raid GTR” has kinetic charm.
“Bottle Rocket,” arguably the best and brightest of the album’s 13 tracks, sounds like something The Avalanches might have cooked up in their own basement. The cheerleader-esque voices chant, “Two, four, six, eight, ten!” over and over again on the four-minute rock out.
Annoying? Not in the least.
With Ninja’s slick raps and blaring, bursting brass infiltrating the mix, “Bottle Rocket” makes the album come alive all over again in the second half.
Thunder, Lightning, Strike is upbeat without being insincere – retro without being outdated. And at a time when damp-eyed emo songwriters and enraged metalhead idiots are dominating much of the music on the charts, The Go! Team makes happiness artistic again.
There was a time when music was tailor-made for dancing and merriment, a time when Queen and the Bee Gees showed us the pleasures of “Night Fever.” That was 30 years ago, but fortunately, The Go! Team is taking listeners back to a better time.
There are no splintering souls or promises of revenge on Thunder, Lightning, Strike, and thank god for that. Instead, the album begs for a revival of everything that feels good. The Go! Team is here, they’re happy and we need their ecstatic dancehall punch now more than ever.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars