A Fan's Notes on The Go
I'll immediately dispense with any notion of being objective about The Go, because I haven't written any "rock criticism" since about 1987, and have no intention of ever doing that odiferous task again. Back in the day, I just liked to goof on folks' sensibilities regarding what they thought art was / is. With few exceptions, people know very little about art. I know everything about art - I just don't know what I like.
When I got the editorial gig at Creem in 1979, I had access to more than I should (in every dimension - it got pretty ugly after awhile), including Lester Bangs' home phone number. I called him, asked for some advice On Becoming a Rock Critic. He said, "If you love a band, tell everyone, spread the joy, and say why. You'll do everyone a favor if you do that."
Well, I'll take his advice here for the first time - I love The Go. I consider them to be the distillation of what rock music is all about, all the way from the top of Bobby Harlow's pointy little head to the dog shit on John Krautner's Chuck Taylors. Have you heard The Go's "American Pig"? It's Number One of the Top 10 songs of the first decade of the new millennium. Who says so? Me, you little bastards, that's who - because it's clean, vibrant, catchy as herpes, but much too wise to have that happen. The song asks questions you might want to ask yourself, and I hope you will. Our country needs to take a good long look in the mirror and ask itself if it likes what it sees. And that's what "American Pig" is all about - your sorry ass. Look in the mirror, then slap your own face.
The Go are world-class songwriters. The rough edges, however interesting they might be, are being sanded down and they're becoming newly minted classicist in the vein of The Kinks, Lou Reed, with this vague nod to The Pretty Things, Mott the Hoople, the Yardbirds. The Go are like having Harry Nilsson fronting the Exile on Main Street-era Rolling Stones. Shit, what more can I say? Okay, they really rock too (we Detroiters see this as our birthright, don't we?), and if you're a Detroit rocker the "ability to rock" is issued to you along with a motorcycle jacket in the 9th grade.
I just saw The Go on May 6th at the Larimer Lounge in Denver, a few blocks away from where Jack Kerouac's hero Neal Cassady was born, and The Go must have been imbued with Neal's spirit that night because they played an incendiary set, a wild-ass loud'n'proud rock'n'roll show I haven't heard the likes of since... well, the White Stripes' show in Denver on September 19th, 2003.
Uh-oh, I mentioned The Go / Jack White non-dilemma. You see, The Go used to be Jack White's bosses, and everyone is somehow weirded-out by this. Being in band is like being married. If you are in a band, you'll have your squabbles, sometimes harsh words are exchanged, and often people end up not speaking to one another for decades - and that's sad. But I really think that anyone who seems to make much of the split ought to shut their holes, because they're just trying to make trouble like the little bitches they are. Heel, bitch. I mean bitches, because that's what you are.
Go know: Jack White is unfailingly polite, alarmingly talented, handsome - much more handsome in person than in pictures - he's all that, a great songwriter and a completely mind-blowing guitarist. I've seen + heard most of the greatest guitarists in the modern world starting in 1969 when Luther + Carl Perkins with Johnny Cash + June Carter played Cobo Hall. Hell yeah, Jack White is right up there with the best of them - so are John Krautner, and Jim McConnell of The Go. The Go are like the Yardbirds - three great guitarists in one band, though not simultaneously - what the hell are you gonna do with all that anyway?
I wish I could have seen The Go with John Krautner and Jack White dueling it out on guitar -- it must have been wild. Wow, no kidding, you people who saw that configuration of The Go were really lucky. While that must have been great, as a fan, I'm thankful that The Go and Jack White parted ways, because instead of one great band, we are now blessed with two great bands, two sets of incredible songwriters whose styles are so dissimilar you have to wonder how they ever held it together for even a little while. Thanks for breaking up, guys, you've made me very happy.
Ace song writing is what The Go are about. Their latest offering on Lizard King doesn't have a dud on it, it's exactly what I want from my favorite band. Sure, they re-invent "Hey Linda We're in Trouble" but like Frank O'Hara and Larry Rivers said, who do you like best anyway? Steal from yourself. And that's exactly what all the greats do. After you develop a style - which connotes snobbery, doesn't it? - don't sweat it, because we artists need to know who we're dealing with in the first place anyway - and we're dealing with snobs and complete jerk-offs.
The big kick in the ass comes every time The Go release a new album, because they are constantly changing, evolving, honing and re-inventing themselves in a way that isn't much different from Lou Reed, The Kinks or David Bowie. "Learn from the best, to hell with the rest" just might be The Go's motto.
I just received a copy of The Go's album Free Electricity, recorded in 2000, that some dumbass label refused to release. Produced by Matt Smith, the record is drenched in echo and delay and sounds so wonderfully and rockingly primitive that I just can't understand what the fucking morons who are guarding the purses in the industry are thinking, if they're thinking at all. I know why the record biz is in a recession now -
There are many good songs out there, but not all good songwriters are great performers. 'Tis true. Live, The Go are like a rocket motorcycle blasting off from rat's ass pile of dreck to tell one last forgotten scale. Like Johnny Ace on steroids'n'crack. I suggest you see them as soon as you can.
Now, the word is out that Detroit owns the music world again. From techno/house stuff, to 50 Cent and Eminem rapping his white-boy ass off, to the very best of garage, this city rules it all. But it ain't like you're going to walk into the Bronx, a bar in Detroit, and see legendary Danny Kroha from the Demolition Doll Rods, Bobby Harlow, John Krautner, Tom Potter, Pat Pantano, Jim Diamond, Julie Benjamin, Dave Buick, Dion Fischer, Bootsey X, Dave Hanna and other members of the Ramrods sitting in the corner booth pounding Heinekens and Johnny Walker Blacks. What, you think it's like New York in 1977 or London circa 1965? Sheesh, that stuff is just in peoples' imaginations, or in some dumb pop culture magazine. Like any other art scene in any city in any time period over the last 500 years or so, they are incredibly small, no matter how big they seem in retrospect or when the mythmakers are moving their big mouths in print, but they just ain't that small.
I heard people are booking vacations to Detroit to take in rock culture - can you believe this stuff? Which hotel would you stay at in Hamtramck anyway? The mind boggles. If you're going to Detroit, wear some rust in your hair and be there when The Go play. You'll thank your prettiest stars that you did.
Mark J. Norton