Now, I think I should admit before I go on: The Got To Get Got are one of my favourite bands at the moment. Not just out of East Coast bands, but all told. And I absolutely love this album.
Back in 2005, I was in Halifax for the Pop Explosion. Underage, I heard about this All Ages show Ted Leo was doing at the Pavillion, so of course I wanted to check it out. This was the first and last time I saw North of America. Quasi-defunct at the time, they had just played a few dates with Ted Leo and were closing off the mini-tour, going back into this state of non-existence. Little did I know that even then, Mark Mullane had the beginnings of The Got To Get Got underway and now, four years later, we hear their first full-length offering: Sahalee.
I hate to compare these guys to North of America--so I won't. There's not that much to compare, anyway, as The Got to Get Got is a different beast altogether. These guys were a bi-coastal collective (now based entirely in Halifax) complete with violin, cello, and xylophone and Sahalee is one of the most deliciously rocking records I've heard in a long while. Before I'd gotten my ears to it, my expectations were, I have to say, mighty high, but Mark & co. did not disappoint.
I've had "Rattle Off" stuck in my head since the first time I heard it, months upon months ago, and it remains one of the best tracks on the album. However! I wouldn't call it a stand-out track, just because so many more of the tunes are just as quality. "Rattle Off" uses both Mark and Eleanor's vocals to the greatest extent, with solid, well-written lyrics and the instrumentation is so beautifully layered, even live, that it makes excellent use everybody in the band.
"Gettin' Dirty in the Afterlife" reminds me of something that I can't quite put my finger on. It's bouncing indie rock tune about, well, "rolling around in our graves". You can't not smile (and, according to some, can't not dance) when you're listening to this track. This one I'd heard a couple of weeks before the album, too. Straight up, an ace rock song.
And speaking of ace rock songs, "Crosses" is the kind of song that gets a crowd going, no matter if you know the song or not. It has great hooks, driving guitar and violin, and it just sucks you in and gets you moving. Gorgeous, fist-pumping, fast-dancing, sing-along rock'n'roll music is "Crosses". And, for that matter, most of the second half of the album. There is not a bad track in the bunch.
"War of Letters" especially is in the same vein as "Crosses"--oh, just listening to this album through makes me hungry for a live show, makes me hungry for a rock'n'roll dance party. That's what this whole album is, that's the only way I can describe it. A rock'n'roll dance party that'll have you smiling the whole way through. I mean, come on, there's a xylophone. Who won't smile at a xylophone?
They do slow it down a bit with "Peyton & Perry", but the tone isn't lost at all. Maybe even better use is made of the non-standard rock band instruments, at the expense of Brad's guitar, until about two-and-a-half minutes in, when one of the most singularly beautiful moments on the album occurs, until the end of the track. Fight on, fight on, fight on.
It's just struck me, while listening to "Some Loud Thunder Clap..." that TGTGG kind of make me think of what would happen if Mark Mullane had been in The Unicorns. Especially with "Gettin' Dirty in the Afterlife", there's that same apparently dark subject matter treated with a smile. ("If the coffin's rockin', don't come a-knockin'!") Not all the way through, of course, but they maintain the ability to do that. There is no low point to the album. It's just absolutely gold from beginning to end.
Release: 14 July 2009
This entry can also be found at East Coast Overture. Check it out!