The Go! Team burst onto the indie scene like the proverbial breath of fresh air. Their music, built on samples of schoolyard chants and TV theme rockers, made most everything else sound gray and a little timid in comparison. Thunder, Lightning, Strike, their debut album, was a brilliant record and Proof of Youth can't help but suffer when stacked up against it. Indeed, it might take a fews spins before you can shake the feeling that you're listening to outtakes from Thunder, Lightning, Strike, but once you do, the album reveals itself to be another, though slightly lesser, stroke of greatness. Rather than relying heavily on samples this time out, bandleader Ian Parton goes with a live band approach with samples blended in. It results in a slightly more organic sound, but one that's still recognizably the Go! Team. Meaning that the master tapes were dragged behind a car for a couple of miles and left out to melt in the hot August sun. The resulting tinny and muddy mess may be enough to give audiophiles the hives, but to everyone else it's an exciting mess that fairly explodes out of the speakers in a hissy rush of sound. The drums pound, the horns blare, the guitars wail and clatter, the vocals shout to be heard; it's a whirling fun house of music. Which would be enough to recommend the album, but the songs themselves are equally as impressive. "Grip Like a Vice," which features raps from female pioneers Lisa Lee of Cosmic Force and Sha Rock from Funky 4 + 1, is the equal of anything on Thunder; "Doing It Right" has lovely verses sung by guitarist Kaori Tsuchida to match the instantly hooky chorus; and "Patricia's Moving Picture" shows a sensitive side the group would be wise to investigate in the future. Taking the place of the samples on Proof of Youth are many guest appearances. Along with Solex's appearance, Marina from Bonde do Rolê sings on the stomping "Titanic Vandalism," two rap crews from opposite ends of the age spectrum (daycare cuties the Rappers Delight Club and real old-school jump-roping rappers the Double Dutch Divas) are on board for "Universal Speech," and Chuck D of Public Enemy raps on "Flashlight Fight." Only the latter guest spot feels like a gimmick. Chuck D's rap isn't as bad as his "Kool Thing" misadventure, but it sounds wildly out of place next to Ninja's exhortations and the old-school lightheartedness that prevails elsewhere. No doubt the idea of working with one of their heroes was a thrill for the band, but the album would have been better off without the song. One misstep isn't enough to ruin things, though, and if you can forgive them for basically making the same album again, Proof of Youth is a pretty solid continuation of some of the most exciting, innovative sounds around. Next time they'll have to stretch some, but for now the Go! Team is doing it right.
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra
feat: Chuck D