“The Go are completely overlooked, get little respect, and it makes me nuts,” says Ivan Suvanjieff (aka Mark Norton), the former Detroit rock scenester, Ramrods leader and CREEM editor, who’s become something of a “spiritual adviser” to the band. “I really feel that people have been force-fed so much crap now for decades that they are most likely to miss what’s truly worth the trouble, truly worth the money.”
A familiar story, for sure, but still. Why are so many undeniably great rock and roll bands getting ignored not only by the mainstream (which isn’t much of a surprise) but also by the goddamned hipsters who oughta know better?
Back in 1999, before Napster blew up, there was still a lot of great music on the internet. Sites like listen.com aggregated a bunch legit downloads (including mp3s, Liquid Audio files, etc.) from across the web, and that’s probably where I first came across the Go. Their song, “It Might Be Bad,” was a free download.
I probably read that they were a garage rock band from Detroit, and that Sub Pop was attempting to branch out beyond grunge, so I check out the song, liked it, and later picked up the album, Whatcha Doin’. That’s how we rolled back before myspace.
These days, the Go is mostly known as the band that Jack White played guitar with for a little while. But they’ve always been more than that. Main man Bobby Harlow knows what he’s doing, and while some people might blow him off as too retro, they’d be missing the fact that the Go makes great American psychedelic rock and roll, and they make it look simple. If you’ve heard The Weirdness, you’ll know this is no easy task; even the guy who invented this shit can’t get it right anymore. The Go, however, can and does.
The tightness around my eyes reminds me of last night’s Bud, but with The GO on the radio? Hey man, it’s right on. Detroit rock and roll water babies, musical greenhorns, touring tenderfoots? Whatever. Turn that shit up.
The brains behind the operation is one Bobby Harlow. Many names he has been known by, but one thing’s for sure: this kid is skinny. Well, that’s true. But it’s all part of the look, man. He can rock with the best of them, especially when The GO lights it up on all cylinders. Watcha Doin’, a rambling, high-octane assemblage of nicotine-stained rock, is the best thing Sub Pop has released in years (well, don’t tell the Murder City Devils that…they might kill me). Harlow’s sexy howl matches the intensity of John Krautner’s ragged guitar lines, and when the backing vocals come in on the chorus of “You Can Get High,” you know you’re in for the long haul. Detroit rock and roll is nothing new. But don’t sit there and tell me you don’t like it.
The GO knows the history (Harlow does a great Iggy Pop impersonation); they’ve been around that block. But lets go around again, and this time roll the windows down. The GO is infectious, just like how you never change the dial when “Back In Black” comes on the radio. Handclaps, fuzzy, slutty guitar, and just the right amount of drums mix it up for 12 tracks of greasy rock music that wears its influences like a broken-in leather jacket. It smells like whiskey and cigarettes, and that’s empowering.