Shoulda known from opening act the Grates’ rated-PG yeah yeah yeahing that we were about to watch, basically, a middle school musical assembly. That puts the Go! Team, U.K. cheerleaders whose indie-rock jock jams do no wrong except do no right, somewhere around the seventh grade, or sixth, or whatever year puberty hits and the girls stop playing sports with the boys.
Go! Team rallied through numbers with names like “Huddle Formation,” “The Power Is On,” “We Just Won’t Be Defeated”—get it?—all variations on distorted guitars and heavy-handed drumming and
nonsense rapping integrated with big Mike Post–style horn samples.
What’s prerecorded and what’s live, who knows, except when the drummer dragged a hair behind the almighty click track, or when later she came out for her piano duet and worked that out-of-breath, out-of-tune, I’m-so-shy shtick she’s been rehearsing for a year now. We patronizing fools clapped along as if to encourage her, and that’s when she won.
Here’s another secret of Go! Team’s rah-rah shysterhood: no hooks. All “everybody’s above average” boosterism and smelly pre-teen spirit, the band counted on lead singer Ninja, who neither leads nor sings, to mock the non-dancers into fun-having. Otherwise the stiffs might see the big-screen projections of Qbert and ColecoVision and other childhood playthings for the insidious nostalgia grabs they are. And shit, maybe we only like the horns because they remind us of our favorite play-hooky programming, The Price Is Right. Just saying—not for nothing is one cut called “Feelgood by Numbers.”
Oh look at me now: the crank in the back of the assembly hall, slagging on the kids. “You have to think of them as a pep band for the greatest high school football team ever,” explained a friend afterward. “They’re more about the enthusiasm.” But here’s the thing. So were the Jackson 5, who had chops and songs, and so were Langley Schools, who had creepiness. Go! Team are straight-B students. None of them are my kids, so I’m not clapping.