reviews for Go Time! - VI
Broken Hearted Toy
by Terry Flamm
Go Time! gives listeners an earful on its new IV album via 18 hard-hitting power pop tracks. As the title suggests, this is the sixth release from the Chicago-based band, following 2015’s Ratsel. These latest songs carry on the Go Time! tradition of matching lead vocalist-guitarist Scott Niekelski’s distinctive, almost talky delivery to consistently inventive arrangements.
Niekelski wrote all the material, and his outlook is bleak whether he’s describing crumbling relationships or trying to make sense of the everyday work world. “We are sinking fast,” he notes on the edgy but melodic “On The Brink.” Elsewhere, there are lines like, “It all turns to dust,” “The prognosis is rotten,” and “You became a slave.”
As for the music, Niekelski, working with bandmates drummer Steve Grzenia. bassist Mark Market, and guitarist Paul Schmidt, never seems to run out of ideas. “No More Tomorrow” kicks off with Marketti’s slinky bass playing before the band breaks into a full gallop, and there’s a dash of Latin flavor on “Old Habits Die Hard.” The high-speed “Way Out” bristles with a punk intensity that’s reminiscent of fellow Chicagoans The Effigies, and Go Time! adroitly weaves acoustic guitar into the electric arrangements of “Broken” and “Crash Land.”
The sixth full-length release from the guys in Chicago's Go Time! The thing that always stands out about this band is the fact that the songs are presented as totally stripped down bare bones recordings. As such, the finished takes in most cases sound very much like a real band playing live. VI presents eighteen tracks of the band's trademark power pop. These songs are built upon solid rhythms with electric guitars being the main driving force. The band is comprised of Scott Niekelski (guitar, keyboards, lead vocals), Steve Grzenia (percussion, vocals), Paul Schmidt (guitar, vocals), and Mark Marketti (bass, vocals). Over the past few years word has spread around the world about these guys and their music. This album is certain to help fan the flames. Solid melodies abound in well crafted cuts like "Human After Allo," "Way Out," and "Reading the Coordinates." The guys in Go Time! always deliver.
December 21, 2016 by Jason Hillenburg
The sixth release from Chicago’s Go Time! is their first release following the January 2015 unleashing of Ratsel. Many bands opting to unveil two massive collections of material in one year would likely experience some drop off in overall quality, but not this band. Led by singer/songwriter and guitarist Scott Niekelski, Go Time! pulls their sound from rock music’s long glorious history with specific reference points along the way and transmutes it through their own personalities and experiences into a style and sonic template all their own. Their latest collection VI features eighteen songs that have intense focus and never run longer than six minutes. The vast majority of the tunes clock in between three and four minutes in length with a few even shorter than that, but they all share the common characteristic of refusing to waste the listeners’ time.
The breezy up-tempo opener “Human After All” begins things quite nicely. The guitar sound is assertive without ever being overpowering and the guitar work has coherence and an emphasis on melody audiences will greatly enjoy. His vocals have a slightly nasal edge, but are otherwise clear and even have a light exhortative quality. They end the song unexpectedly by breaking away from its main motif for an electric and acoustic guitar trading brief riffs as the song fades out. ”Drop the Act” has a much rougher rock edge and Marko Marketti’s busy bass line sometimes briefly spars with the guitars to great effect. “Friendly Fire” comes barreling out at the listeners with a lot of power thanks to Steve Grzenia’s muscular and propulsive drumming, but the consistently melodic guitar add a lot of firepower and strikes the right balance against the other musicians.
“Broken” is one of the album’s longest tracks and finds them steering into acoustic territory with pleasing effects. This isn’t a band where unplugging from their high octane power pop creates a precipitous drop off in energy and quality; instead, it’s the opposite side of the same inspired coin. “Living Beyond the Fray” has a cracking guitar riff, driving the track and a hint of the ominous most of the earlier tunes lack in any way. This song, in some ways, is perfectly illustrative of Go Time’s approach – there’s great economy here that keeps the band focused but there’s, likewise, no feeling on the listener’s part that the band has left something out in the interest of keeping things brief. Their punk influences bleed out a little with the romping blast generated by the song “Way Out”. It has every bit of the urgency that you’d expect without ever sacrificing any of their considerable technique.
An infectious guitar riff opens “Old Habits Die Hard” and its light bounce carries over throughout the song. VI’s penultimate tune, “Reading the Coordinates”, has a raucous side to its instrumental performances balanced out quite nicely with another attentive and attitude-driven vocal. VI concludes with “Straight to Snuff”, another power pop guitar rave up with dissonant edges and strong melodic virtues that are the hallmark of so much top shelf material on this release. Go Time! continues to consolidate their position as one of the nation’s foremost purveyors of the power pop form with their latest studio album and build on their reputation as a great band with fiery chemistry and fantastic songs. 9 out of 10 stars.
by Lydia Hillenburg
The Chicago based Go Time! has released six albums since their 2009 debut Speak and the latest, VI, is their first since January 2015.Led by singer, songwriter, and guitarist Scott Niekelski, the band’s lineup is rounded off with Steve Grzenia on drums, Paul Schmidt on guitar, and Marco Marketti on bass guitar. Their latest mammoth collection includes eighteen songs, none running over six minutes, and some will quibble with the sheer volume of songwriting on this release. The truth, however, is that Go Time never risks self-indulgence with any of these cuts and there isn’t an outright dud in the bunch. The energy level stays high throughout the entirety of the release and Go Time! shows enough diversity stretched out over this release to assure anyone listening that they are far from one trick ponies.
“Human After All” opens the album with slashing guitar chords and a rambunctious spirit. Despite guitar being the predominant instrument on the album, it’s never rock defined in a narrow fashion. This opener is an excellent introduction to how Niekelski incorporates melody into everything he does, but it never rounds down the sharp edges so far that they lose their jagged sharpness. “Drop the Act” pulses with far more outright anger than the opener, but manifesting emotions aren’t something that ever sends Go Time’s material off the rails. Subtle variations in approach, instead, clue us in. The guitar phrases are much terser than before and attacks with just enough force to put over the song’s feeling. “Close to Home” is the first of the album’s shorter tracks and while a sub-three minute running time might suggest punk influences to some, those influences are never stressed too much. Instead, this is a relatively straight-ahead rocker given a twist by biting guitar tone and physicality on the instrument. There are a handful of incendiary lead breaks during the song, but they are brief in duration despite peppering the song with more color.
Some things about “Broken” suggest that the band might be aiming this particular song for radio play. The acoustic setting for the track is certainly a big departure from the preceding compositions and highlights Niekelski’s talents for melodic songwriting without ever surrendering any of their clarity. “Tensions Simmer” doesn’t do much simmering musically – this is an out and out guitar driven musical assault that browbeats the listener into paying attention, but the next song “Black Space” finds a more artful balance for this sort of material. Guitars bubble over with rough-hewn lead lines and authoritatively played chords while the band varies its groove in an assortment of unexpected ways that keeps listeners on the edge of their seat. Grzenia’s drums bring the band into “On the Brink” and the song has that same fly by the seat of its pants thrills implied by the title. It has a vague retro classic rock feel while still remaining resolutely modern in every other respect.
“Straight to Snuff” ends VI on an uncompromising note that, in essence, isn’t particularly different from the aforementioned song. Go Time does a gripping job of juggling a number of balls at the same time – VI is, in turns, mildly funny, rousing, and always tightly played and intensely presented. Go Time! is a rare unit; few bands could manage producing such an abdunance of fine material within one calendar year and, they clear any goal they set for themselves with room to spare.
By Shannon Cowden
Chicago based Go Time! has carved out a much deserved reputation as one of the country’s great guitar fueled power pop bands with a variety of influences making them stand apart from similar purveyors of the form. Their six albums to this point rage, romp, and sing with attitude, melody, and often surprisingly literate songwriting that engages serious themes without ever sacrificing any of its rock and roll energy. They keep their tracks brief but, despite the relatively short length, pack a wealth of experience into those condensed spaces. The eighteen songs on their latest release VI might seem like a little overkill, but Go Time make you believe and the onrush of their creativity crackles with genuine inspiration and urgency. Lead singer, primary songwriter, and guitarist Scott Niekelski is joined by drummer Steve Grzenia, guitarist Paul Schmidt, and bassist Marko Marketti to form a powerhouse unit capable of blowing back your hair and lulling you into a blissful musical trance.
“Human After All” is a fitting opener because it shows off many of the band’s distinctive songwriting tropes in one tight, well-written track. The six string work has a rhythmic slant, but peppers every song on the album with an assortment of lead licks. Their intensity and stylistic flavor often varies, but there’s a consistency of tastefulness and how they use those moments that makes it a signature element of Go Time’s approach. The album’s second track “Drop the Act” has a decidedly more jagged edge than the first, a reflection of its lyrical attitude, but Go Time never completely deserts their melodic inclinations. There’s an appealing laconic spirit in Niekelski’s vocals on “Friendly Fire” and the brisk accompaniment he gets from the rhythm section begins with Grzenia’s authoritative drumming kicking off things. Go Time takes a sharp left turn into acoustic music with the song “Broken”, but retain a serious character despite the comparatively softer “unplugged” textures. Their songwriting stands out here – rather than go in for the obvious lyric given the song title, Niekelski chooses to write about the subject in much different way.
“Tensions Simmer” has a big, boisterous riff in the upper register and some more of the uptempo power pop leanings prevalent on much of VI. The riff for “Black Space” is even bouncier, but Marketti’s serpentine bass lines slither high in the mix and nicely counterbalances the riff. This is one of the album’s underrated tracks, a real gem that might get lost on such a lengthy running order. Some might hear a hint of Stonesy rock swagger in the way “On the Brink” moves and the rootsy, feel-centered sway this song nails is a nice contrast to the mode Go Time works in over much of the album. The skewed, quasi-waltz sort of guitar riff on “Old Habits Die Hard”, may have some initial resistance to it, many listeners will find that its herky jerky tempo sticks in the brain. They indulge in some atmospherics and theatricality not often heard from them on “No More Tomorrow”. More so than ever before, Marketti and Grzenia stand out as the track’s real musical heavyweights. They lock together early and give Niekelski a great platform from which he can deliver his vocal.
These aren’t mortal wounds to the album’s quality. Instead, VI is a flawed but remarkably ambitious work that succeeds more often than it fails. Go Time! stand out for a lot of reasons, but their desire to cover the extra mile in making a memorable recording is one of the best and their sixth album finds them pushing harder than ever before at leaving a lasting musical statement for posterity. 8 out of 10 stars
December 19, 2016 Lance Wright
The power power format remains popular in various styles for a number of artistic reasons. The largest reason is the uncluttered musical format it provides the band. Guitar, bass, drums, and voice minimizes the potential for a band’s songwriting to become mired in over-instrumentation and lends itself to providing the necessary spaces a song needs to breathe. It concentrates energy. There are no sideshows, no unneeded adornments, and no dross. Instead, Go Time writes songs that plunge forward immediately into the deepest end and never come up for air until their conclusion. These are songs as an immersive experience and Go Time’s verve and gusto demolishes any distance between the band and listeners that makes the eighteen songs on their most recent album, VI, a bracing experience for the band and their audience alike. Scott Niekelski, the band’s singer/songwriter/ guitarist, has a vivid and fecund creative imagination that spills out melodies on this album and makes it one of the richest guitar-fueled experiences of 2016.
One of the album’s catchiest riffs kicks things off. “Human After All” opens VI with a melodic, well composed guitar riff with a hook certain to lodge itself in listener’s memories. Many of the eighteen songs on VI are powered by a high octane musical step, but it isn’t all just careening near-chaos given loose musical form. Go Time knows how to properly harness their musical energies in such a way that their tracks always have a slightly raucous quality yet are kept between the lines by their unquestionable and very commercial melodic sensibility. “Drop the Act” shares many of the same characteristics, but they barb their guitar hooks a little more here and the lyrics certainly aim for the jugular in a way that the first track does not. “Broken” is acoustic driven and has a much more laid back feel than what we are accustomed to hearing from this band, but even the shimmering guitar lines worked into this composition have a darker hue lurking just beneath the bell-clear production. Niekelski explores a whole other side of his vocal talents here to memorable effect.
There’s a little bit of humor to go along with the light classic roots rock vibe that makes “Misperceived” chug along so strongly from the start and Schmidt delivers an energetic, strong vocal. “Living Beyond the Fray” has assertiveness from the start, but it remains even-tempered throughout until late in the track when Go Time ramps up the tempo and intensity for a particularly rousing ending. The melodic bass playing on “Black Space” is invigorating and adds a lot to what otherwise might be a middling mid-tempo rocker. “Might Not Be Enough” may seem a little back to basics and over-simplified to some, but the directness will get over with more listeners than it alienates and Niekelski’s lyrics are quite strong. The album’s conclusion “Straight to Snuff” boils over with some of the same intensity that’s distinguished many of the earlier songs and is an excellent selection for their curtain closer. With each new release, Go Time continues to mark themselves as one of the best power pop guitar bands working today. They are instrumentally superb on every level and couple that with songwriting that imaginatively goes the extra mile to make substantive personal and wider statements. 8 out of 10 stars
December 20, 2016 Montey Zike
Led by vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Scott Niekelski, Chicago based 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 and Schmidt’s guitars. In a world of often interchangeable guitarists, the signature style that emerges early on VI never wavers. Go Time’s rhythm section, drummer Steve Grzenia and bassist Marko Marketti, lay down often fluid but never unsteady grooves that the guitars dart over the top of like quicksilver. The nature of 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 turns 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 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 they reins in the raucous guitar and the song is built around the rhythm section with 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.
December 18, 2016 William Elgin
Scott Niekelski, Paul Schmidt, Steve Grzenia, and Marko Marketti have been entertaining Chicagoland audiences and music lovers across the country as Go Time! since their 2009 debut. Their sixth studio recording VI simultaneously reflects their control and ambition. It’s certainly bold in this age of short attention spans to release an eighteen song collection and the band will experience some mixed results with listeners as a result of that decision, but one thing is clear – they are never self-indulgent on a song to song basis. Nothing on VI runs over six minutes in length and most tracks confine themselves between three and four minutes in running time. This is not a band that dawdles. Go Time have something to say in every song and don’t waste a single musical note or word in attempting to convey their point.
VI starts off strong with “Human After All”, a robust rocker with strong melodic values and a rousing vocal from Niekelski. The rhythm section of Grzenia on drums and Marketti on bass guitar makes everything possible for him – they keep things nailed down, but moving. “Drop the Act” has a little more of a razor blade hidden up its melodic sleeve, but Go Time never gets too abrasive and the balance between its assertiveness and melodic strength makes it one of the more memorable tracks on VI. The band changes gears in a profound way on the song “Broken”. There’s only two acoustic songs on the album, but they fit in well with the other songs and Go Time never sounds out of their depth with the track. Schmidt’s “Misperceived” has some rollicking rock and roll spirit heard on only a few of the album’s songs that harkens back to a rootsier sound instead of the alt music musings characterizing so many of the other songs. “Living Beyond the Fray” is reminiscent of the earlier “Drop the Act” in the way that it manifests a hard-nosed musical attitude than many of the other songs, but the melodic virtues burn brightly here as well.
The midway point of the album brings listeners one of the album’s better tunes with “Black Space” and a major reason for its success is due to the exceptional interplay between the pieces and one of the best riffs. “On the Brink”, much like “Misperceived”, finds a classic rock swing to complement another quality riff Schmidt’s vocals are quite good here as well. “Might Not Be Enough” might work up more of a guitar lather than any other track on VI and certainly exudes more menace than the audience has thus far heard on the album. “Crash Land”, the album’s second acoustic track, has a much more pronounced jangle than the earlier song “Broken” and the slightly more rambunctious spirit is quite entertaining on an otherwise low-fi song. VI is probably too long by at least two or three tracks, but there aren’t any outright weak compositions on this album. Go Time has earned a well-deserved reputation as one of the best modern power pop bands that will only be further burnished by this new release. 8 out of 10 stars.
Indie Music Reviews
December 22, 2016 Scott Wigley
Go Time has kept themselves quite busy since their 2009 debut and they show no sign of relenting. Their sixth full length album, entitled VI, follows 2015’s Ratsel and features eighteen songs with focused running times driven ahead by Scott Niekelski’s and Paul Schmidt’s guitar work. His band mates in the rhythm section, bassist Marko Marketti and drummer Steve Grzenia, have combustible interplay and keep the pulse of these songs beating loudly. They played a number of gigs in Chicago and the surrounding environs over the last seven years to promote their previous five studio albums and their ease and energy with each other is, even on a studio recording, readily apparent. Their torrid creative powers are evidenced on every song here but, naturally, some stand out much more than others.
“Human After All” starts VI off and is a good example of one of those aforementioned songs. Niekelski’s guitar riffs are usually distinguished by the bright hue, but he chops away at the string with such emphatic power that his sound has a light percussive quality that’s hard to ignore. Many listeners may not like his voice or it might take some getting used to, but others will think it works fine for these songs, particularly those like the album’s second track “Drop the Act”. The lyrics demand a little more bite in his vocals than the opener and Niekelski responds with a smirking, clawing voice. He has a great handle on how to sing Go Time’s songs and the idiosyncratic parts of his voice mark him as unique among his peers. “Close to Home” opens with a buzzsaw guitar rave up before it launches into one of the album’s strongest riffs. The vibe during the verses is pure rock and roll and Grzenia gives this music a real swing. “Broken” is carried off by acoustic guitar and rates as the album’s longest track. There’s certainly a sense here, however understated, that Go Time are swinging for the fences and showing great ambition by giving their listeners a much more nuanced tune than the earlier cuts.
Based on what’s come before, listeners will be excused if they expect “Misperceived” to be some sort of post-punk rock song. Go Time play this like a handful of tracks on VI – the instruments find a groove early on and ride it for everything they’re worth. It gives the song a definite swagger and makes for a nice change of pace. “Black Space” has one of the album’s best bass lines and breezy rock muscle that makes it difficult to not pay attention to. Frantic energy defines “Way Out”, but the urgency the band is trying to depict never pushes them off the rails. Instead, the tempo demands of the song seem to focus the band’s attention on maintaining the straight possible line of attack and it transforms this song into the equal of a flurry of punches. A crackling and rousing guitar riff sets off the late track “Lost Or Found” and Niekelski answers its energy with a gritty and energetic vocal. They settle on a rather uncompromising finish for the album. “Straight to Snuff” has pummeling electricity that doesn’t let its boot off the listener’s neck. There are faster songs on this album, but few are harder. Niekelski’s singing reflects this well with one of his most intense performances. Go Time’s sixth album continues to expand their growing body of first class rock music with equally sharp songwriting.