CD Review of Howl on the Haunted Beat You Ride by The GO

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Howl on the Haunted Beat You Ride
starstarstarhalf starno star Label: Cass Records
Released: 2007
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If you’ve been hip at all to the sounds coming out of Detroit for the past, oh, 10 years or so, you know its reputation as the epicenter of a full-scale garage rock revival came and went faster than you could count the colored stripes on Jack White’s undergarments. But to the bands and musicians involved, and the countless fans for whom the minimalist, throwback sounds struck a deep, reverb- and fuzz-drenched chord, it was never about being revivalists. It was about straight-up rock’n’roll, rough edges and all, using the loose, raucous style of an earlier, purer form (before rock’n’roll became Rock, in fact) to get to a place that was more about the song, the sound and the attitude than it was about big budget production values, auto-tuned vocals and made-for-TV personages. And the bands name-checked in most reports of the so-called revival – the Von Bondies, Bantam Rooster, the Soledad Brothers, the Dirtbombs, the Black Keys, the Detroit Cobras, They’re still going strong, still touring still connecting with fans who want to hear new rock’n’roll, but for whom the vast majority of indie rock leaves cold.

The GO have been part of this Detroit scene since the beginning. Jack White played guitar in the band for a minute or two. This is their third or fourth album, depending on how you count, and it’s unlikely you’re one of the couple dozen people who own or have otherwise heard their previous records anyway. These guys – vocalist-producer Bobby Harlow, guitarist James McConnell, bassist John Krautner, drummer Marc Fellis – are WAY past Nuggets revivalists. A song or two into Howl on the Haunted Beat You Ride and you’ll check the packaging for the release date just to make sure it’s not a reissue of an album by a group of pre-British Invasion artifacts.

There’s something daring and appealingly arrogant about a band whose musical reference points stop after, say, 1973. And with this release, The GO have stretched far beyond garage rock to girl groups, bubblegum pop, plenty of early Beatles/Stones/Kinks (obviously)…hell, even the Banana Splits sound like an influence on these guys.

I’m not so delusional as to think this music has charms for all but a few appreciative and like-minded zealots. Don’t expect to be hearing “You Go Bangin’ On” or “Caroline” sandwiched between Nickelback or Kelly Clarkson on any radio station any time soon (including non-terrestrial radio). The reverb and primitive production (well, primitive in a sophisticated kind of way) make the album sound as dated as something by the Troggs or the Grass Roots. And yes, there’s plenty of fuzzed-out guitar soloing (“Help You Out”), faraway vocals (“Mercurial Girl”), and AM radio-friendly moments (“Mary Ann”).

The thing that strikes me most about The GO, or any of their similarly influenced musical brethren, is how much they mean it. Sure, it’s an homage whose influences are blatant and obvious. But it doesn’t come across as a gimmick; it’s certainly not tongue-in-cheek. It’s not for nothing that bands of 40 years ago are still being listened to and emulated today. Something tells me we won’t be hearing about bands reliving the glory days of Modest Mouse or Clap Your Hands Say Yeah in the year 2050…

~Una Persson