Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN - 13/3
Go Go Berlin
Written by: TL on 15/10/2013 13:52:19
While folks abroad may yet be blissfully ignorant of them, as a Dane it's becoming increasingly hard to not make note of the name Go Go Berlin. Forming while the members attended the "Performers House" folk high school, the Aarhus quintet reportedly spent two years cultivating their common love for classic rock and beat rock while soaking up both musical and professional advice from their teachers, building a steadily growing media presence and a reputation as incendiary live performers up to the recent release of their debut LP "New Gold" via Sony Music sublabel Mermaid Records.
With the band's name thus emerging with increasing feeling of 'hype' or 'buzz' around it, "New Gold" is likely to be approached with equal measures of curiosity and healthy skepticism, and so it's refreshing to feel the contrast in the welcome of the opening "Enterlude", which builds feedback and echoes of guitar, vocals and organ to the point where you feel like you're about to listen to "Chinese Democracy II", only for the first proper song "On The Run" to greet the listener with mid-tempo, hand-clapping catchiness and a vintage feeling that is as simultaneously retro and current as an instagram filter.
That feel quickly proves to be symptomatic for "New Gold" overall, with Go Go Berlin showing an essential ambition to unearth oft-forgotten virtues from the currents of 60s and 70s rock and revitalising them with a energy, eclecticism and efficiency rarely seen in similarly retrospective projects. "On The Run" alone opens with Thin Lizzy-ish harmonised guitar, to later thrive on a combination of ragged piano notes and crunchy powerchords while "Gimme Your" flashes some trippy The Doors-ish keys in its bridge, and a song like "California Mind" blooms to life like a The Who song opening an episode of CSI, only to break down into more Beatles-ish rhythms across the middle and sliding over into laid-back Hendrix-ish soloing.
Benefitting of a raspy lion's purr of a voice that compares as easily to contemporary rockers like Caleb Followil of Kings Of Leon or Johnny Borrell of Razorlight as it does to Danish legend Kim Larsen in his Gasolin days, singer/guitarist Christian Vium narrates proceedings, with lyrics and attitudes going back and forth between bluesy, soulful balladry ("Waste Of Trying", "Castles Made Of Sand"), seductive swagger ("Gimme Your", "I Want You", "You You You") and classic rock'n'roll defence of living out loud in the face of bad times ("Shoot The Night", "Raise Your Head", "Bad!"). As opposed to virtually every band in rock'n'roll since almost as long as I can remember however, Go Go Berlin stand apart by not trying to sound harder, heavier, wilder or louder than the next band, which is like to be the main reason if skeptical listeners attribute songs such as the single "Raise Your Head" with a sense of lacking power. With opinions likely to differ wildly on the matter however, I've landed on the position that Go Go Berlin are far from in dire need of any breathtaking attempts at excess, because their songs are diverse, textured and carefully developed enough, to easily make their mark even with just a few casual play-throughs.
So I love how the band has stubbornly opted to explore a wide palette of influences across the album's ambitious fourteen tracks then, penning both raunchy, driving rockers in "Shoot The Night" and "Gimme Your", which both seem to get better upon each listen; smoldering ballads alá "Waste Of Trying", which calmly gets its hook in you early, to only really unfold in a climax towards the end; and happy-go-lucky dance tunes like "Darkness" and "Do You Mind", that sound like something your parents could've donned dancing shoes for when they were sowing their first wild oats in their own youth.
Ultimately I can understand if some want to accuse "New Gold" of being too commercial, toothless and/or derivative, but personally I think that's an unfairly skewed view of it. For me it appears as a charismatic bridge between the past and now, and a rare 'retro' record managing to offer a wealth of tightly composed songs that win on closer inspection, as opposed to the single lucky hit and subsequent servings of filler that we've seen from a similar band like Jet from Australia for instance. Finally, it's a strikingly neat and charismatic take on 'retro', standing apart from the current international trend that leans towards much fuzzier and heavier heritage rock, and tallying that on top of all the other reasons provided thus far, I think it just might end up among my most appreciated albums this year.
Download: Raise Your Head, Shoot The Night, Gimme Your, Waste Of Trying, California Mind
For The Fans Of: Razorlight, Mando Diao, Jack White, Kings Of Leon,
Release Date 30.09.2013
Mermaid / Sony