City Paper is not for tourists
Recent months have seen the release of new go-go discs by the Northeast Groovers, the Junk Yard Band, and D.J. Kool. Like salsa and zydeco, go-go, years after its fruition, remains an insular regional style that is beloved by partisans but often dismissed as a stylistically limited or overly circumscribed musical genre. Go-go musicians are cognizant of their critics, but also aware that one-time top-of-the-heap outfits Troublefunk and Experience Unlimited lost their street credibility and major-label record deals after crossover efforts failed to sell. While the record industry shows little interest in go-go, the dilemma for go-go musicians remains whether and how to incorporate outside influences without alienating dance- floor followers. Three recent efforts demonstrate different responses to this dilemma.
The Northeast Groovers’ Straight From the Basement tries a scattershot approach. Featuring chanted party-time funk, slick radio-ready ballads, and hybrid new jack go-go, Basement attempts to please followers of every style on the R&B spectrum. While their renditions of all these subgenres are musically competent, only on “Booty Call” and the title track does the band prove that it can create a signature sound. The Junk Yard Band’s Creepin’ Thru Da Hoodz is hardcore purist go-go. Known for the paint-bucket beat first demonstrated on area street corners, the crew continues to highlight that technique here. While the tactic is engaging in small doses, the disc’s absence of melodies and poorly mixed vocals ensure that Creepin’ will appeal only to the band’s most devoted followers. Finally, D.J. Kool (who is not a go-go musician but a turntable manipulator and producer) uses go-go and hiphop records and sampled loops on 20 Minute Workout to create a minimalistic yet booming bass-heavy sound. Like many releases by DJs, his Workout includes four largely superfluous remixes, yet his best work here reveals skill and potential. His rapping may be perfunctory, but Kool demonstrates on “Bass n’ the Truck” and “Funky Like a Monkey” that he has a knack for generating memorable rhythmic hooks.