Alternative rock has become such a bigger, more inclusive term than it was ever intended to be, and in an age where categorization matters more than it ever has before, blanket terminology doesn’t make a whole heck of a lot of sense. Enter Midway, the new album from rockers Go Time!, and both audiences and critics are challenged to reassess their concept of the alternative rock model. Midway doesn’t give songs like the rigid “Awkward Truth,” “Ghost Inside of Me,” churning “Scraps” or swing-happy “Undertow” the same varnishing that has become all too typical in contemporary alternative music; it looks back, towards the past, and borrows from the stripped-down, DIY philosophies of American bands like Flipper and The Replacements, as well as the layered, multidimensional approach of British acts like Joy Division. No, Go Time!’s new record isn’t some sort of a throwback or retrospective piece designed to recall the vintage sound of a punk rock genre no longer present in our modern times. However, it is a scathing commentary on the sorry state of rock music, as told through its most classical and familiar of lenses.
“Spare Parts” feels to me more traditional than it does experimental, but at the same time it’s mixed with such a conservative style of attack that it’s hard for me to consider it solely a product of its own influences. For the most part, Midway is full of material that has the fluid identity of what we’d hear in a live jam session; “Hard to Pull the Trigger” and “No Claims or Pretentions” sound like fragments of much larger, more grandiose performance taken directly from the stage, slicked back and committed to master tape, as do other tracks like “Parting Gift” and “Best Intentions.” The music is riddled with physicality to such a degree that it could crack a swanky set of speakers if cranked past the halfway point on your sound system, but the stylistic indulgences are never overdone or excessive in nature. The melodies might be as intoxicating as a glass of over-proof whiskey, but Go Time!’s music is far from the messy, pointlessly liberal metallic noise of 80’s rock bands (or that of the camp-worshiping amateurs who followed their path).
Packed with more tonality than any of the output that we’ve seen from Go Time!’s contemporaries, Midway is a carnival of primal rock grit as we haven’t heard it in quite some time. Records like Midway aren’t dependent on harmonious hooks and likeable lyricism to get us on the same emotional and mental level as their composers; they relate to us in a much more unique way, one that could even be defined as spiritual. There’s an unspoken connection that anyone with a pulse has to music like Go Time!’s, and it doesn’t come from some trend currently making the rounds in pop culture, nor from an oft-recycled narrative about masculinity or humankind’s propensity for aggression. This music touches us with its primeval bass tonality, its sandy treble and the angry vocalization of its words, and while some are content to listen to records that amount to ineffective commercialism, an album likeMidway exists to keep the rest of us going.