In 2015, when the Go! Team released The Scene Between, the major news was that the band’s mastermind, Ian Parton made the album alone. Gone were female rapper Ninja who had become somewhat synonymous with part of the group’s sound and original guitarist Sam Dook was also missing. Semicircle sees Parton reverse course with both members back in the frey. While that should be an exciting proposition, there feels like something is missing on Semicircle.
Opening track “Mayday” begins with a morse code “SOS” which is then filled out by noisy drums, horns, sitar, and Ninja rapping. It has all the hallmarks of a classic Go! Team opening but the execution is off. While vocals have never been a focal point of the Go! Team’s work, they seem to be the clunkiest part of “Mayday.” Impassioned spoken word part where the female protagonist pleas “And I just know something’s gonna change soon/Cos there’s only so much a girl could take/And if there’s anybody out there/I just need a sign, just give me a sign” is almost too high-school-production-of-Romeo-and-Juliet. It ends up feeling cringe-worthy rather than charming.
The album’s titular track runs into the same problems. “Semicircle” sounds like a high school marching band has been hijacked to play twee pop which is everything a Go! Team fan can really hope for. Then Parton has Detroit-area high school students introduce themselves and tell the listener their zodiac sign. It’s all the awkwardness of a high school orientation icebreaker with absolutely no upside.
With the few missteps comes plenty of successes. The Go! Team are still good at what they do. “The Answer’s No – Now What’s the Question?” is a lo-fi indie pop song that could have easily been included on The Scene Between. “Plans Are Like a Dream U Organise” shows off some of Parton’s best sampling since Proof of Youth. The energy is there from start to finish but its like working with the Detroit Youth Choir allowed the band to rediscover the awkwardness of their own youth. It makes Semicircle not a fully great album.