The release of God Bless the Go-Go's evokes the spirit of those movies where beloved fictional characters from another time period (The Brady Bunch) or far-off galaxy (Star Trek) find their way to modern-day America. These characters never quite fit in with their new surroundings, but that is the fun of it. The best films of this genre tend to put people in their place. They let viewers know that they're not, and will not for long be, the ruler of this world, for these roads have been walked down time and again. Nowhere is this a more disregarded lesson than in the pop and rock music industry, where yesterday's stars are tomorrow's clearance bin. In the 21st century, it is a most unlikely surprise that the Go-Go's should pop up again, having traded in their water skis for saint wardrobes. They may be the premier all-girl band of the '80s, but even with their occasional summer tours, only loyalty extremists can keep excitement going over a group that has only released three albums in the distant past. So here, dear fans, is the long-hoped-for number four. Don't be fooled by technological blurting like "hyperspace," "vision of nowness," or the haphazard lyrical palette on "Sonic Superslide," which states "We are solar sisters here to make you shine." Sounds edgy and new, but the group took the familiar route with tracks that sound every bit as Go-Go's as their previous records. Every bit as Go-Go's, that is, as their non-hits and less remarkable material. While the Go-Go's sound is intact, there is not a "We Got the Beat" or a "Head Over Heels" to be found. It is feasible that in this age of pop rebirth, the Go-Go's decided it was now or never. The result makes little sense, since God Bless is in good company with alternative music from the 1990s. The first single, "Unforgiven," was even co-penned and features vocals and guitar by Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day. The album lacks modernity aside from its production and stylish vocals by Belinda Carlisle (not as perfected as on her 1996 album A Woman and a Man, but should astonish unfortunate MTV worshipers who have not heard anything from her since the late '80s.) The songs flow together a little too perfectly due to heavy, monotonous guitar use -- listen to it once, and then without looking at the track listing, try to make them out by their musical intros. Good luck. There are very nice intersections amid the musical gruffness, like the ballads "Apology" and "Here You Are." There are spots where the guitar serves them well, as on "Unforgiven" as well as "Stuck In My Car," a wonderful fast-paced song about a slow-motion traffic jam. The album finishes with "Daisy Chain," which will go down in Go-Go's history if only because it is the history of the Go-Go's. It is memorable, sporting lyrics like "At number one not doing so fine, still having some fun spilling the wine," graced with a sticky sweet melody. Such a beautiful song it is -- transporting listeners back to the reason they love the Go-Go's in the first place -- that it is easy to give the whole album the benefit of the doubt. Yes, there has been effort put into the making of God Bless the Go-Go's. Yes, it is great to see a group of five 40-year-old women proving that aging is not the same as dying. Yes, it is exciting to hear something new after 17 years. The fun should be that the Go-Go's fit awkwardly into their new surroundings, that they show up from out of nowhere with their silly Go-Go's music to shake up all the "zero size" girly singers who they poke fun at on this album. Hopefully, fans won't have to wait another 17 years for that fun.
AllMusic Review by Peter Fawthrop