Music Review: If You Gotta Go-Go, Go-Go Now: A Tribute to The Go-Go’s

Over the decades, the Go-Go’s have become regarded as one of the key groups of the new wave movement and in a way a commendable cross-over act that connected the underground to the mainstream that one can still hear at wedding receptions and swimming pools, or in short, the essential link between Blondie and the Bangles. The Go-Go’s stirrings led to a ripple effect that eventually crested into momentous waves that continue to build, lift, and launch these 24 acts from sea to shore.

Scanning the groups involved reveals a beguiling mix of the Go-Go’s competitors and contemporaries from the late ‘70s & early ‘80s (Paul Collins, Nikki Corvette, and Josie Cotton), some of the most compelling musicians associated with the best of the ‘90s (Fastbacks, Lisa Marr), famous-in-Japan acts from the last 20 years or so (Baby Shakes), and Japanese groups famous outside of Japan (the 5.6.7.8's).

Hearing how each act incorporates their own individual style within the vicinity of the distinctive sound and brash & bouncy energy of the Go-Go’s is the pull of this album. There are some instant winners with the artists one already appreciates, and then there are some unexpected surprises with a few previously unknown groups who share similar guitar-driven sensibilities.

Fastbacks surge ahead with their version of “Vacation” and make it unmistakably their own with Kurt Bloch’s dive bomb metal flake guitar fills leading up to the indelible and exultant chorus. Lisa Marr’s astonishing rendition of “Worlds Away” is simultaneously the most monumental and spare song on this tribute. She found such a gem to interpret and completely transformed it with her austere treatment. In addition, Marr makes the ukulele sound avant again as her playing style verges on the exotic, making it sound more like a koto or zheng.

Baby Shakes reacquaint listeners with “This Town,” which has emerged as one the Go-Go’s finest songs. Besides marking a high point in their songwriting, “This Town” is also an example of the Go-Go’s undeniable ability to glean the decades like a thrifter with a trained eye. They were obviously and unabashedly spurred by the best early to mid-sixties pop rock, while also proudly wearing their prominent ‘70s power pop & punk influences on their tattered sleeves. Overall, they were not only in tune with their times, they helped shaped its direction by their awareness of the past and forward momentum.

The Go-Go’s were an effervescent, upbeat, catchy, and pivotal group who partly defined the early ‘80s. Success arrived for them because of their ability to absorb and encompass the overlapping musical and visual influences of several Southern California’s extant sub-cultures into an appealing, distinctive, and unified identity of their own. They were able to put the symmetrical in the asymmetrical and the power in the pop, while blazing the way for others to follow. - Ted (Downtown)

If You Gotta Go-Go, Go-Go Now on Freegal

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