On their fifth album, The Go! Team offer up another infectious collection of joy-filled, pepped-up pop.
While fitting clearly into their back catalogue with samples, glockenspiel and flutes aplenty, Semicircle seems more inspired by 60s soul music than their previous records. With contributions from the Detroit Youth Choir and samples from a high school record from 1983, the record is, from one angle, a celebration of youthful optimism. Band leader Ian Parton also cites school marching bands as a jumping-off-point for the record, wanting to “reclaim them from patriotic or sporty associations”.
Semicircle is enthusiastic and a little rough around the edges, although this is absolutely intentional – Parton claimed that “it’s always about personality over perfection for me” - and is why he incorporated novice singers from a local Detroit high school for “Chain Link Fence”. There’s no denying that the record is full of personality, evident in the cheeky samples: there’s the sound of ping pong at the start of “Tangerine / Satsuma / Clementine” and a satisfying spaceship ‘swoosh’ that kicks off “All The Way Live”. The most obvious, and wonderful, example of this is when members of Detroit Youth Choir introduce themselves on “Semicircle Song” – along, naturally, with their star signs.
That’s not to say the album is saccharine; Parton purposefully avoided using children’s choirs for this reason. The lyrics on 60s girls group inspired cut “May Day”, for example, deal with despair and heartbreak: “only the ocean can say goodnight / only the ocean to love me / only a heartache to hold me tight / only my troubles above me”. This, the lead single, is a clear stand-out, with sitar, Shangri-Las style spoken word and melodramatic lyrics over a Morse code beat. It’s ridiculously catchy.
Semicircle is optimistic but not purely escapist, it’s also about “Getting Back Up”, as per the album’s closer. The album opens with despairing “May Day” and ends on this defiant note, making it clear that Parton’s aim for this record was about “reminding yourself of the good things in life’ and then ‘getting on with it, for getting organised and not letting the fuckers get you down.”