GoGo Penguin ~ Everything Is Going to Be OK

The title is calm and reassuring, a salve in savage times.  But the fact that GoGo Penguin is telling us that Everything Is Going to Be OK implies that it is not OK now.  The album itself was born out of heartache, as one band member lost his mother and brother, another lost his grandmother, and the third left the band.  This brought the remaining members and new drummer closer together, feeling more “mindful and grateful,” and eventually led to a slight shift in sound.  Looking back, the trio shares the title sentiment with its listeners, just as Jilk did on Joy in the End, another title implying an unsteady present.  And while the album is bracketed by the similarly reassuring titles “You’re Stronger Than You Think” and “Sanctuary,” a hint of hard times is found in “Saturnine,” which means (but doesn’t sound) gloomy.

Four singles have already been released, a rare show of confidence.  Even so, many of the other tracks could serve as singles as well.  The first to appear is “Glimmerings,” a relaxed piano-bass-drums piece that hearkens back to an earlier sound.  After this, the aforementioned “Saturnine” exposes the trio’s electronic underpinnings in its intro, and is counter-intuitively more positive than its predecessor.  Best of all is “Friday Film Special,” inspired by DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing…  This is a difficult tribute to pull off, but one the trio does so with aplomb.  Often in times of loss, one ventures into nostalgia, as was apparent in the musical preferences of people during the pandemic.  Here the band members recall the relative simplicity of their youth, skateboarding, watching TV specials and grooving to instrumental hip-hop.  And while “Friday Film Special” is not hip-hop, it possesses that same jazzy, retro vibe.

The entire album comes across as a comfort.  As the trio found “sanctuary” in their studio, they invite listeners to find the same in their grooves.  The new drummer is an excellent fit, and the interplay remains instinctive, on the border of improvisation, especially on “We May Not Stay.”  The entire set tilts toward fourth single “Parasite,” whose TENTACLE-directed video bears the influence of “Koyaanisqatsi,” the classic film the trio re-scored eight years back.  People bustle; landscapes change; the line between reality and technology is blurred.  The population and pace increase.  A woman covers both her ears.  But GoGo Penguin doesn’t end here; they close instead with the respite of “Sanctuary.”  Perhaps everything really is going to be OK.  (Richard Allen)

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