The Go Rounds : Album Review & Live Video
Review by August Smith
Photos & Video by Steven Michael Holmes
Though I live in Boston now, I had the pleasure of being in Kalamazoo, MI, for this past New Year’s Eve. Besides being surrounded by good friends and good beer, the pleasure was multiplied by the fact that I spent it at Bell’s Brewery where I got to see Kansas Bible Company, Maraj, and the Go Rounds herald the shiny new year. They all brought the requisite sonic goods, naturally, but I remember being surprised that there were only four people on stage for the Go Rounds set. I guess they’re a four-piece now, at least as a live band. Flash forward nine months and we have their third LP, dont go not changin, due any minute, and guess what?! Go Rounds didn’t go not changing! (i.e. they changed)
In comparison to the other Go Rounds LPs, dont go not changin is a more straight-forward affair. Those past LPs— feathername and their 2011 self-titled— were expansive records, sometimes heady to their detriment, but all the more distinctive because of it; they featured left-turns to Dixieland jazz shuffles, drippy space-jams lacquered with reverb, occasional drum machines, and mournful orchestrated waltzes, all saddled up right next to the “high-energy twang” of their pop-rock songs. If those albums were analogous to novels, dont go not changin is more of a novella; shorter, sharper, a more narrow scope, and yet not lacking because of this structure.
It’s not as if the Go Rounds’ proclivity to stretch their sonic legs has entirely vanished. Instead, those tendencies have been toned down and absorbed into that pop-rock sound, and the result is a record that’s more consistent and more immediately engaging than anything they’ve done. On dont go not changin, the Go Rounds sound less like a collective of musicians and more like an actual rock band.
This new focus might be the product of that pared-down lineup or of the bands consistent touring schedule. Regardless of its origin, the effects are apparent from the first note. Opener “Texas Desert Rose” eases in with tight mid-tempo percussion clicking along beneath a rambling guitar motif, punctuated by some synthesizer twinkles and acoustic guitar, the whole thing sounding like a long drive through an expansive and sun-drenched valley. It’s a tightly coiled song that smartly builds and quells its tension without ever letting it fully explode.
Instead, the pace picks up with the pulsing gallop of “Waxy Moon”, and it hardly abates throughout the whole album; after all, each of the songs herein are indeed rock songs of one shade or another. There is the honky-tonk stomp of “No Rivals”, the Rhodes-led semi-proggy “Monica,” the simple and, uh, sweet duet “Make It Sweeter”. The closest we get to their softer side is “Do You” and even that song snaps along at a fast clip.
The synthesizer elements on the album also hold a new, more prominent position. Almost all of the songs feature some sort of laser beam deployment, sometimes subtly, like the squiggles on “All Rise”, other times in-your-face, like the neon funk zaps on “Shock and Awe.” But the focus remains on their particular blend of Americana-gospel-rock, with ne’er a jarring jump between the electronic bleep bloops and the ever-present bed of slide guitars.
Parsons’ lyrics are centered on dissecting or communicating with the various characters that populate his songs, sometimes a bygone lover, sometimes a subject of desire, at other times an enemy or a rival or even perhaps himself. Though occasionally his advice-giving can come off as self-satisfied, their teasing and brash delivery is augmented by the strident nature of the songs. I keep coming back to this idea of focus, and the lyrics are a part of that nexus as well. It all comes together in a tight, neat package.
Largely, listeners’ opinions of this record will come down to whether they like the Go Rounds’ for their ability to write a great and catchy rock song, or for their weirdo psychedelic inclinations. I assume most would fall somewhere in the middle. But as someone who typically leans toward the latter, dont go not changin is still a welcome shift and an ideal record for these hot and waning summer days.
dont go not changin release shows :
Wednesday, Aug 26th : SpeakEZ, Grand Rapids MI
Friday, Aug 28th : Subterranean, Chicago IL
Saturday, Aug 29th : Bells, Kalamazoo MI
Sunday, Aug 30th : Salt of the Earth, Fennville/Saugatuck MI