Go-Go Fightmaster — Sound 1 (Edgetone, 2009)
The first Go-Go Fightmaster album was a display of aggressive free jazz, stacked with heavy moments but also featuring often bright sax- and guitar-led pieces, and even a Monk cover.
Six years later, the band’s second album is out, and it’s a lot more in the brain-scrambling noisy jazz mode. Loads of fun. They should be a real treat to see live on Tuesday — that’s Dec. 8 at the Uptown in Oakland, possibly with Aram Shelton as a newly added band member; Shelton”s Oakland Active Orchestra is also on the bill.
At KZSU, the band is most famous for that first album’s opening track, “Buffy Is Dead.” The phrase meant a more back then and drew more than a few chuckles. And the track has an appropriate sound, with babbling sax played over a guitar death march — a tongue-in-cheek jazz/metal hybrid.
Jazz elements remain on Sound 1 but they’re more thoroughly dressed in Michelin-Man layers of noise. “Evil Bohemian” is a happy, swingy sax line that gets backed by a sinister yet toe-tapping guitar riff. It ends up in an accelerated free-jazz rush with Aaron Bennett’s saxophone blaring like a swingy alarm klaxon.
“I Drink from the Big Girls Cup” goes straight for alarm-bells mode, fast and relentless. (Hit single!) Lisa Mezzacappa’s bass comes across in aggressive slaps; Vijay Anderson on drums plays like he’s The Flash chiseling apart the Eiffel Tower, and his subsequent solo is a real treat. You’re left feeling exhausted.
Some tracks are engineered for raw firepower. “I Smell the Devil” is thick with John Finkbeiner’s metal-distorted, jazz-hating guitar sound. “A Fall” is loud in a more granular way, a swirling, crazed tumult. The longer it goes on, the deeper it eats into your brain.
Bass tends to get short shrift in a loud band, but Mezzacappa gets more than a few moments of glory. In particular, there’s a seriously athletic bass solo on “Put One Fourth,” with small curls of guitar and drums as accompaniment. The audible out-of-breath huffing on the track is probably Mezzacappa’s — an appropriate effect, because it’s a physically strong solo, an audio version of digging to China.
Yes, there are moments of quiet virtuosity, passages of calm reflection, and even a slowish track. (“The Cosmic Cogitator, with a sinister ritualistic sound and a snazzy, angular guitar solo.) But the album’s philosophy is best summed up by the three short snippets titled “Sound One” (and Two and Three). They sound like instruction pieces: “You have 20 seconds to obliterate them all. GO.” Very cool.
I enjoyed the first album partly because of its variety of moods and styles, but the more cohesive sense of group purpose on Sound 1 cannot be denied. It’s a superior effort, the sound of a band that’s daring you to a game of chicken. Go on, take your chances.