Gonetcha – Fickle Games – Album Review
Hey right on…been a while since we caught up with Gonetcha…last time around was close enough to this time last year I’d say…seems like the band is running like clockwork and getting a record out per year of its existence so far. Which would make, by my calculation, Fickle Games, their third then.
So before I end up spinning one of these tunes from their latest album and spilling a bit more info about the band on the upcoming episode of the SBS Podcast…let’s check out this follow-up from their last record Mission and see what’s happening in the wild world of Gonetcha and their music these days.
Though my gut tells me that Gonetcha is likely to remain an acquired taste for many listeners out there with this new album, I can hear some real positive steps that have been made in between the last time around in 2018 and here on Fickle Games a year later. Gonetcha’s got a notoriously quirkly Alt-Rock sound…some people go nuts for stuff like this, while others get nervous listening to something so far out on the fringe, even when it’s a genre they think they’ve got a grip on. “Picture Me” will reveal a bit of that oddness that often exists between the low-tone vocals and music surrounding it in Gonetcha, but you’ll also hear some great moves forward here as this record begins & this project progresses forward. I’ll say this…I’m not entirely in love with the vocals of the verse, but I do think that they’re much more nailed in the chorus – and then the final transition around the two-minute mark, they’re awesome. So it’s a bit of a mix in the results, but it certainly ends this song on its strongest notes and carries confidently into a killer solo to finish this tune off. Probably more to do with the constant flow of the vocals throughout the verse that has the melody feeling a little jammed, even despite the sparseness of the music surrounding them – the method gets flipped for the chorus with the words spreading out and the music expanding into a much fuller, thicker, & badass Rock-influenced sound. “Picture Me” almost heads into a kind of Deep Purple-esque groove in the chorus…and I think people will dig that. For me, it was all about that switch at the two-minute mark…”Picture Me” is just 3:22 long, but you get that last 1:22 to spend in a whole new direction of the song that worked extremely well for Gonetcha – like I wouldn’t go as far as to say it negates the efforts made prior to that transition, but that final nearly ninety-seconds of “Picture Me” pretty much exceeded every hope & expectation I could have had.
Like…take “Save Our Decay” as a way of measuring what you can expect from Gonetcha in terms of sound & style – for example, I’d put this band somewhere between Frank Zappa and the B-52’s when it comes to how this second tune came out with such personality on the vocals and such a willingness to explore the wilder-side of Punk-Pop/Alt-Rock. Bass stands-out in this tune for the bounce it brings to the music, the lead guitar definitely gets the advantage of the rhythm-section being locked in so that it can roam around with colorful adds to the song and a general spirited attitude sprawling throughout the solos, verses, and chorus of this cut. “Save Our Decay” has the advantage of some riffs that’ll definitely catch the people’s attention with the hooks they contain, smart frequencies & tones in transitions, and an energy that really never quits. While the vocals will always be the polarizing point of Gonetcha’s overall sound for listeners – music’s history points to singers like this all throughout its history and the fact that the outsiders, those like Les Claypool or Zappa, can often catch fire with the people out there. So whether YOU get it, or I get it…it really doesn’t matter – what I can tell ya, is that someone, MANY people out there WILL get it and feel these vibes…it’s been proven a million times in our history. Weirdness & wildness quite often equate to a raging passion – and I’d argue that’s a ton of what fuels Gonetcha’s music and records…it’s that embrace of the magic of the moment and giving it all ya got…that’s what connects with music like this. “Save Our Decay” moves swiftly through its catchy-Punk verses, keeps the guitars engaging, the bass rumbling, and boasts a pretty meaty structure throughout. Where I’d offer some potential advice, at least in the studio…the call & the answer method applied in the chorus works, but I’d also record it like that too – as in, separate parts, separate tracks. When you listen to the vocal flow of “Save Our Decay,” you can hear the demands it makes on the vocals due to the fast-pace of the movement & continuous stream of words…it sounds like the separate method is being used in the verses, but the chorus gets left to the one run-through perhaps…and you can hear the vocals just barely get through the whole experience with a little breath left in the dude’s lungs, spent by the end. “Save Our Decay” on one track, the follow up line on the next…give the man some room to breathe and some space to make that punch of the lyrics come through as it should in the song’s most important moments. Might switch it from a more hazy vibe to a sound that demands more attention.
Some good & bad in “Don’t Say Sorry” – Gonetcha’s going full-speed here throughout this one and there are a few casualties in the process, but for the most-part, quite an inventive idea at the roots. I would toss every shout of “Hey” right outta here personally…it sounds like it would come with a leg-kick or choreographed movement with it…ultimately it helps with keeping the metering of the vocals on-point & I get that, but still. Other than that…I’m fairly inclined to give most of this cut the thumbs-up of approval…it’s a demanding tune to play at the ripping tempo it’s at for more than half of this tune, but that’s also a signature part of the Gonetcha sound. The instrumental section of this cut absolutely SLAYS – for that alone, I’d be willing to give this track the nod…once again, it felt like Gonetcha lit-up the latter-half of this track with inspired musicianship & crunchy distorted tones blazing it up towards the end. Dissonance tends to get the better of the vocals in the verses of “Don’t Say Sorry,” but it felt like the rebound is strong in the performance throughout the pre-chorus & choruses to follow. I’m always going to advocate on behalf of a bit more space…Gonetcha tries to stuff in a ton of words on a consistent basis – to the point where it causes that breathlessness at times…and whether it’s less lyrics or more run-throughs in the studio booth, unlocking that final piece of the puzzle is what takes this band to the next-level it’s seeking out. Because the ideas and instrumentation are certainly there, no question about it – the vocals nearly are too…it’s just a matter of being objective, stepping back from the material to see if it both suits & serves the music, and being willing to go back to do it all again as required. It’d be a different story if the dude was never on the mark at all…but when you know he’s capable, and likely just needs a bit more time or patience to get those flatter tones to fit the melody he’s searching for, then that’s a whole other thing. Gonetcha hears music just like we do – we all have that same skillset when it comes to listening to music…and now it’s just about deciding whether or not certain tones really do fit.
“Giddy Buy” will have a few of the same issues as “Don’t Say Sorry” when it comes to the mic, but I think the spirited attitude of the music on this cut definitely has a lot of appeal as well that will triumph over that and keep people onboard. Right from the drop, the guitars are completely enticing with that rad riff – and though it’s nestled in behind the personality of the guitar, the bass is also putting on a major highlight performance throughout this track. While the verses might wander back & forth a bit in terms of contrasting with and complementing the tone of the vibe in the music, I can’t fault the execution on the chorus at all. That’s not me saying it’s my thing personally – it’s not…I ain’t gonna lie, I’d take just about every part surrounding the chorus with all its quirks as opposed to experiencing the chorus – it’s just not something that appeals to my own personal taste is all. Doesn’t mean it won’t appeal to yours – like I said, the execution is strong and even though it’s a repetitive lyric, it’s complex to deliver, like a tongue twister – but the dude pulls it off no problemo when it comes to the chorus. Put it to you this way…there’s nothing seriously wrong with the chorus, it just really goes for a full-on Rock-N-Roll embrace is all…like I said, for some people, they won’t be able to get enough of that moment of this particular cut. Ultimately, “Giddy Buy” has a lot of spark to the sound of the music…my gut tells me that the verse needs that same level of inspiration in it too, but you’ll find the chorus rise up to that challenge…energy-wise, I dig it. Instrumentally, again, I think Gonetcha can flash serious moments of genuine brilliance through both the tone and recording of the music – listen to the way the guitar creeps in so damn perfectly around the 3:12 mark – that’s sonic gold right there and a killer sound filled with texture…LOVED what that did for this song and I dig the playful character in the solo afterwards too…but having that vibrant riff & tone come back once more at the end was also the perfect cherry on top to finish “Giddy Buy” on solid ground.
Strong mid-section of this record – “I Need To Know” has some of the most gripping sound you’ll hear on any of these tunes and a completely accessible one at that. Gonetcha almost reaches back towards the psych-60’s for part of this vibe, and nearly like a more subtle Queens Of The Stone Age as well – it’s a really cool balance that gets discovered in this vibe that definitely connected for me. The bass is a constant presence and keeps the cool of this track flowing, the additional flute-samples in the mix help strengthen the atmosphere – but at the end of the day, if you were to ask me what people are going to remember, it’s the insanely cool riff that fuels the verses of “I Need To Know” – that’s just top-shelf sound right there is what that is. Gonetcha needs to be mindful of not giving up on the energy on the microphone…the verse comes out with genuine spark…the chorus is right on the money and probably around the spot that we’re all looking for this project to rise to…the pre-chorus though, is missing that oomph that makes these other two parts surrounding it really shine & stand-out. So with it being a pre-chorus, it’s obviously just a tiny fraction of the overall song…but it’s something to keep in mind going forward, especially on a song like “I Need To Know” that’s really asking for that added energy like you find in the chorus of this tune bringing to the surface. At the end of the day, I don’t think there’s much that could keep people away from this cut…there are serious hooks in this music that radiate catchy sound from the lefts to the rights within the music, and the chorus of this cut is a real highlight on this record…tons of reasons that “I Need To Know” comes out spectacular…Gonetcha is movin’ & groovin.’
The similarities in vocal-flow will creep up on “Rebel Hour” once again, potentially costing this cut a bit of its maximum reach to listeners out there…and hopefully, that’s not the case. For one thing, I think this might be one of my favorite cuts when it comes to the music here…Gonetcha’s almost borrowed a move out of the Chili Peppers’ playbook from back in their party days towards the beginning of their career. Loved the interaction between the guitars and bass of this tune…solid snap on the snare to keep it all in line was perfect & all it needed there – and the expansion of the transition into that instrumental section around the first minute was completely awesome. That’s where you really pick up on that Chili Peppers-esque sound for a moment…the spirit of the overall song probably traces back to their early days, but that particular moment feels like it could have fit right onto One Hot Minute, which is really cool too…it’s kind of a hybrid between those two parts of that band’s timeline, through Gonetcha’s perspective & approach to the style instead. In any event, I think this one comes out strong – you could argue that the guitar solo maybe colors just slightly outside of the lines, but to me & knowing what Gonetcha’s all about as best I can understand it, it really represented that wildness of purely rockin’ out. “Rebel Hour” lyrically does a great job of representing that socially-conscious spirit of the punk-funk vibe as well…on an album I might be looking for a bit more diversity in the vocal melodies & flow from track-to-track, but if this was the first cut you heard from Gonetcha, you’d come out with a favorable opinion for sure. Heck, even though I’m craving slightly more variety vocally, I still have no problem jamming this tune and have done so loud’n’proud many times – my opinion’s still favorable, I’m just here to push projects like Gonetcha towards that next phase of their evolution as best I can with any observations I can make, that’s all. Lots of great sounds & smart lyricism that suit the vibe throughout “Rebel Hour.”
With how incredible that bass comes out sometimes you’d almost be surprised that Gonetcha doesn’t permanently go the Funk or Disco route – because like…DAMN that’s good stuff! Listen to the musicianship in the bass-department on “By Myself” – definitely a highlight there for sure. The rest of this tune is much tougher to examine…I suspect for most listeners, those guitars are probably up a bit further in the mix than they need to be this time around. The bass & drums completely stand-out, and you want them too in the mix as well – having the guitars up at all times, keeps moments like the solo even from standing out maybe as much as it should. On “By Myself,” it almost sounds like the guitars might even get just a bit quieter in the mix right around then, which is where they should probably come up just a bit more than the rest of the guitars throughout the song, but with them up above the rest already, you can’t pull that move off twice without it becoming extremely noticeable, know what I mean? Bringing the guitars down a bit to let the killer rhythm section in this song stand-out more would be a great move, but it would also allow for additional dynamics in the way the guitars can be mix later on in the song as well, I suppose that’s what I’m getting at. When they’re already at the top of the mix, you can’t really make them more-top than they already are – make sense? And it’s not like Gonetcha doesn’t know this somewhat…the double-pump isn’t pulled on the song’s most dominating element, it just doesn’t have any additional room to flex its badass sound, that’s all. As always, I’m advocating for space. All that being said – I think that “By Myself” is probably one of the more different tunes on Fickle Games by comparison to the rest from its beginning to end when it comes to the vocals; Gonetcha might wander a bit too far out with the complex melody of the design of the flow on this one and lose a few people in the process, but as a fan and a dude that’s been listening to this project develop, I like that you can hear the songwriting reaching more confidently for uniqueness in the unknown here. Plus don’t get me wrong – I love the guitar solo on this cut, I just think it should have been a bit louder…as per the standard, Gonetcha chooses to light this track up with wild & vibrant personality in the music towards the end of “By Myself,” but it also takes a bit of a backseat to the dominant sound of the vocals on top.
“Losing Control” is an interesting track to listen to in the sense that it almost works the Gonetcha style, but in reverse order. To be completely honest, I was a little shocked that the intro didn’t resurface later on in the song; I totally get how that Funk/Rock main riff is attractive, but the main hooks, the most captivating hooks – they’re right there at the beginning of this song, rather than the end this time around. The opening of this tune…how do I put this…that revving of the engine, that build-up – it’s freakin’ gold Gonetcha! And it’s tossed aside in favor of the rest! Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a song & an idea to follow the intro, it’s just surprising, because to me that’s such a noticeably enticing part of “Losing Control.” The stop/start beat of this track works, the vocal flow hits a few snags in the metering but comes out pretty solid…I’m a little undecided on the main riff of the guitars – I like it, but I feel like it’s really being leaned on to carry this tune. While it’s strong, I’m not sure if it’s that strong, know what I mean? Felt like we needed a bit more in this one at points, even with the clever bridges like around the 2:45 mark, which was another cool avenue of sound for this song to explore; those verses come out a bit bare in the sense that, if you weren’t in love with the riff, there’s nothing else for ya to latch onto – and that might be something for Gonetcha to consider. Or maybe I’m just a little jaded because I really wanted more of this song’s first fifteen seconds to flare-up again somewhere down the line and it never happened for me! We can’t always get what we want, that’s how it goes sometimes – bottom line is, there’s a killer moment yet again in this song and Gonetcha has found a way to include at least a killer idea, riff, or part in each of these tunes to give them a redemptive quality.
I know I’ve spent a lot of time pointing out this or that…it’s only because Gonetcha has always been seeking to improve and evolve as it progresses over time…I’m more than happy and more inclined to invest more time, words, and effort when I know what’s being said is actually being considered on the other side of the screen. On “Look For Me,” for example, I didn’t exactly love the parts for the vocals melody-wise/lyrics this time around, but I wasn’t indifferent either, which is good – but what I loved was the performance on this tune in comparison to many of the others. As far as the singing in Gonetcha goes – this song clearly goes for a bit more…there’s more space in the chorus to let the notes ring out more – and that’s exactly what happens here, which draws out some really cool, dramatic, theatrical, and well-sung moments on “Look For Me.” Maybe around the 2:30 mark in the bridge there, the vocals might need a bit more spark to’em, but for the most part, the bulk of this song features some of Gonetcha’s better vocals to-date in what’s actually quite a challenging part, and uniquely sung song. Definitely some deadly guitars & slick bass in the mix of this tune as well…you can feel the mayhem, menace, and electricity in the energy of this tune, building-up and just waiting for that opportunity to burst open even further, which Gonetcha pulls off really well in the fast-paced intensity of the chorus.
Innovative & inventive beginning to “Flee Or Fight” as well…I think in the verses, I’d probably recommend bringing the guitars down a bit and the bass/drums up a little as well…not just this tune, but overall I suppose. I’m trying to think of what would best fill that absence of sound without taking away the space that exists, and I’d be willing to bet experimenting with the mix & volume a bit more might end up bringing the music to a thicker vibe. Because like…if you listen to how the chorus on “Flee Or Fight” comes out – I’d say that’s exactly what you’re going for…that’s a perfect mix at that point. I’m not so sure the verses of these tunes always need to dial it back quite as far as they do sometimes…and in the particular case of “Flee Or Fight,” I wouldn’t go as far as to say the guitar tones are grating exactly, but they’re slightly in-your-face when it comes to how much they dominate the mix with their treble-up tones in the verse of this cut. I ain’t gonna lie…all-in-all, “Flee Or Fight” is kind of a bizarre tune structurally & melody-wise, but it’s interesting at the same time…if there’s one thing that can certainly be said of Gonetcha, it’s that you don’t hear too many things out there that would totally remind you of what’s happening here. Maybe a piece or two in comparison every so often, but for the most part, Gonetcha’s goin’ its own route…regardless of how anyone feels about any given song or record, no one could deny that there’s a verifiably identifiable & signature sound at work here you could easily pick out.
Saving one of the best for last, “No Limit” ends Fickle Games on the strengths of Gonetcha’s oddly charming personality and what’s likely the strongest hook you’ll find on any song, with the best harmonies you’ll find on this record bar-none. Gonetcha makes bouncy & playful movements throughout the verse…and I’ve got no issues there, you can hear the spark and punch in the words – but LISTEN to that chorus will ya? Now you tell me what other moment you’d stack that up against on the album and try to convince me it’s stronger…because I think this final song might very well contain the entire record’s most memorable highlight. This is what I was saying before about how we all hear music with the same two ears essentially – there’s no one out there that could deny how well the vocals on the chorus of this tune have come out – and whatever the method, mix, or motivation may be – that’s the kind of sound that Gonetcha should harvest, if not bottle-up and sell to the masses. And as IF there haven’t been enough reasons to really dig this final tune already – the solo on this song would also be among the best, if not the best, that you’ll find on Fickle Games as well. The tones of the guitar are straight-up outstanding for the majority of the solo and it creates a huge moment on this final track. The bass…I mean…c’mon…what else can be said about the bass? It’s pretty much been the all-star and the most reliable force at all times throughout this entire set…it might get outshined by the most stunning moments of the guitars or vocals surrounding it perhaps, but at the core of it all, the bass has driven many of these tunes to their success. It plays another all-star role at the end of the album on “No Limit” for sure. Vocally though, above all things…I think you’ve gotta give props to Gonetcha for raising the stakes in a major way right at the end of Fickle Games on “No Limit” and maybe even giving a nod to the future to come – there’s a lot of reasons to take a good listen to & look at this last track for what worked and take these amazing positives found within throughout it into that next album to follow.
Be sure to tune-in to the next episode of the SBS Podcast where I’ll share some more thoughts on Gonetcha with ya and spin one of these shiny new tunes on the show later this week! Until then, make sure to visit the official pages below for music and more information on all-things-Gonetcha!
Official Website: www.gonetcha.com