Led by vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Scott Niekelski, Chicago based three piece Go Time! has released five albums since 2009’s debut Speak. Their latest and sixth studio album, simply named VI, is another mammoth collection of original material, eighteen songs in all, that embodies the clarity listeners often associate with pop music. The musical base of everything this band does, however, begins with Niekelski’s guitar. In a world of often interchangeable guitarists, Niekelski has a signature style that emerges early on VI and never wavers. His cohorts in Go Time’s rhythm section, drummer Steve Grzenia and bassist Marko Marketti, lay down often fluid but never unsteady grooves that Niekelski’s guitar darts over the top of like quicksilver. The nature of a three piece dictates that Go Time’s sound is never too cluttered and there isn’t a wealth of additional instrument they introduce to these songs beyond a single memorable stylistic turn they take. The production renders everything clearly, but there’s likewise an appealing rawness that comes from these songs.
“Human After All” introduces listeners to many of the aforementioned elements in one of the album’s best rockers. This hits much more of an alternative rock note than it does the power pop guitar rock that the band is known for, but there’s definitely a lot of melody in Go Time’s presentation. Niekelski doesn’t indulge in a lot of lead guitar histrionics, but it makes a difference when he does. “Drop the Act” is an excellent example of that and, furthermore, the sort of head down aggressive performances they can conjure seemingly at will. “Friendly Fire” reminds me, for some reason, of a much more rocked out early REM with Niekelski’s nasal and slightly sneering vocal reminiscent of a particularly intense Michael Stipe. The guitar riffing remains as melodic as ever, but the real spotlight player here is Grzenia. The production invests his hammering with some added heft but, beyond even this light veneer of post-production muscle, Grzenia’s playing sets a definitive tone for the track. “Broken” makes excellent use of dynamics. It’s an acoustic track and, as such, stands out from the remaining seventeen songs, but it is built for the tension and tempo to gradually rise and climax in a memorable way. The band has obviously put in a little more time with this song than the others and their hard work pays off with a particularly dramatic song.
“Black Space” is one of the album’s best tracks at exactly its half way point. This is an all around great performance, but it’s distinguished most of all by the understated point/counterpoint relationship between Niekelski’s guitar and Marketti’s bass. The effect is likely intended, but if it isn’t, that’s even better. The dialogue suggested by both instruments gives this track a quality that other songs do not share. The forceful rush of sound coming from the song “Might Not Be Enough” has an air of ominous urgency, but it never overplays it. Go Time gets a lot of creative mileage from the song as a result of their restraint and it definitely contends as one of the album’s best all out rockers. “Lost Or Found” is nearly as monumental of a stylistic turn as the earlier “Broken”, but Go Time doesn’t take an acoustic slant to the song. Instead, Niekelski reins in his raucous guitar and the song is built around the rhythm section with his six string work taking on a much more compositional approach. Go Time are building a legacy at this point and, after nearly ten years as a working band and a half dozen studio albums under their belt, they have achieved much. VI leaves them poised to achieve more.
9 out of 10 stars.