Welcome to Goon Island
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Reviewed by Jason Thompson
So many bands these days try to have an attitude but fail -- put this disc on and hear nothing but pure attitude screaming at you as the music pounds on. “The Way We Here” opens with glistening harps and then jacks into cowbell and snare snap-fast beats, a “Hey, hey, hey!” and a thick lead bass line. Rich Cash sings like he’s come to take over without question, and without question he does just that. Remember how you kids got all excited about the Strokes and thought they were badass? Well, fuck that, because XXTeens show the New Yorkers how to do their own thing a million times better. Genuine rough edges, a sense of danger and reckless abandon are all here minus the schmoozing with celebs. A garage din from hell come to reclaim the dead.
“B-54” successfully bridges the game across the Atlantic by throwing the dirty London laundry into the Big Apple’s. Iggy Pop hasn’t sounded this good in never, and all those leftover CBGB’s rats would kill to see this band ruin its stage. Ditto that for “Round,” which incorporates synth squeals and bleeps into the mix before spinning off into a theramin-injected middle where the birds sing and clean guitars ring. “I found an old man who wanted me to roast animals for him because he loved the smell of cooking / I found a man who wanted me to sacrifice my children on his altar!” go a few of the lyrics. It’s creepy, and it rocks.
There’s a little brass band and saxophone swagger thrown in “Ba (Ba-Ba-Ba)” that reminds one of both Madness and They Might Be Giants, but without being either. “Onkawara” returns to the bass-led and speed-fueled scariness with out-there keyboard touches that may or may not be borrowed from Raw Power, but the point is this is a million times more exciting and demanding than that old stale classic ever was. And if you’re looking for the “hit single” here, then put on “Only You” and be reminded of a time before cable TV and mass electronic media took over everything and the craziest shit was played on the radio because a real revolution was going on at the time. How did it happen now? Who knows, but welcome it eagerly.
“My Favorite Hat” could have been a lost Flight of the Conchords track, which is excellent no matter how you slice it. And there’s “Darlin’,” which sounds like a high school marching band has come in to collide with the XXTeens while a steel drum wanders in from God knows where and joins in the mayhem. It makes absolutely no sense, but it works like a dream. Of course, there’s also “Sun Comes Up,” featuring full-on sitar action and conclusively puts a “genius” band like the Brain Jonestown Massacre in its grave while also thumbing its nose at the Chemical Brothers. Insane fun.
Look, this is just one of those albums that is going to be talked about, people. And you should definitely join in the conversation -- go out, buy it, and force it on your friends and everyone else. Welcome to Goon Island is the shot of adrenalin the ever-lapsing-into-death music industry needs right now. It’s chaos at its best, and you probably aren’t going to hear a more original rock album this year (and if I managed to say that in some other review, just immediately forget it and apply it here). XXTeens have that X factor, and will undoubtedly be using it to take over the world sometime soon.