Preference in music is the very definition of subjectivity, definitively so in fact. Whereas reviewing a live show is more of a this is what happened and what it felt like to be there kind of thing, album reviews, on the other hand, tend to read like conclusive statements of what the reader will hear, feel, or whether the album’s intent will resonate with the reader/listener in any deeper sense. Really though, who am I to lay claim on how an artist’s creation might reach you?
That ledge is the only thing I ever see
I am the sum of my experiences, each and every one of which led me to this time and place and all serve to inform my unique perspective. So to feign objectivity or pass off an album review as anything more than my proprietary interaction with an artist’s intent would be to serve the reader a forced helping of bullshit.
Born in the heat to keep it always out of my reach
Rick Mitarotonda, lead guitarist, vocalist, and chief songwriter for Goose, had this to say with respect to the intent behind his art, “Music at its best form, really encompasses everything that its creators are experiencing. But yeah, it comes back to the point that I think if there is a spiritual intention behind the music you create, whether or not it’s being spelled out… but trying your best to express what’s authentic to you, if that happens to be a spiritual thing, maybe someone will resonate with it and maybe it will open some kind of door for them in some way.”
Grab on a hold each treasure while you go before they turn to sand this man is all alone
*Perhaps* as intended by the artist, but *definitely* as needed by my circumstance, Goose’s latest album reached this audience of one in a heightened state of readiness. “A nine-track collection of music written over the past decade, Shenanigans Nite Club presents musings on a journey through life and a quest for fulfillment, all while saluting the important figures along the way.” As this past year has been one of pervasive loss followed by global healing, never has my quest been more heightened. Perhaps our suffering has differed on both an individual and global scale, but as sure as you’re reading these words, we’re still here, which isn’t to minimize the permanent loss of death experienced by so many, but rather to celebrate the collective transcendence and fulfillment of those who remain.
So ready for this
The opening track to Goose’s first album in five years actually debuted six years ago. A live staple of the modern era setlist dressed up for the studio, “So Ready” and its accompanying instrumental, “(s△ttelite),” are high-energy, disco funk dance tracks whose message is short, sweet, and, like all good art, timely as hell.
Take it slow, I’m burning baby you know
In addition to having an exponentially high fun quotient as a live offering, “Madhuvan’” references the story of Dhruva and his quest for enlightenment, originally written in the Bhagavata Purana. The song is an exploratory journey, examining life’s most beautiful offerings and most dangerous pitfalls.” Wait, what?!?!
If I had it all, if I had it all, what life would leave me satisfied?
Even as its live counterpart often clocks in at twice the length, “Madhuvan” jams twenty minutes of perfection into a ten-minute track, reminding us that on the path to enlightenment, the joy *is* the journey. “SOS” (Same Old Shenanigans)–another old, new song that debuted in 2018 and has only been played live three times–will likely see more play and exploration once summer tour resumes. In the narrative of the album and the pursuit of higher awareness, it warns of the perils and false idols draw our attention.
The power of bottles and cans, when do the answers arrive?
As “Dawn” metaphorically ushers in a new day, that ledge is no longer the only thing I see. Beginning with a reverse chorus, Dawn is the album’s pivotal track, bridging past, present, and future. Says Mitarotonda, “[I] envisioned someone stepping away from this crazy party scene (SOS) and having a moment of self-realization and growth occurring.” One of just two tracks to debut on the album, this stunning and reflective track has yet to be performed live.
It’s a new life creeping out
Literally speaking, “Flodown” could very well be the end of the very same day ushered in by the rising sun of its predecessor, but to me is more likely the backend of a symbolic pilgrimage. While these consecutive tracks couldn’t be more divergent sonically (think square dance vs. acid trip), they are more connected than at first they appear, especially with ambient drones bridging the tracks as lyrical day turns to night.
Been sweatin’ in the haze all day, and somethin’s gotta take this edge away
On the heels of what is likely the most fun song in the Goose catalog, “Spirit Of The Dark Horse” brings an abrupt end to the “rowdiest shindig I ever seen,” at once snapping our attention back to serpentine spirits lying in wait and hiding in plain sight–the devil you know and all that. A serious track, the levity of its intent is inextricably woven into Mitatotonda’s piercing guitar even as Anspach’s keys lighten the outro. Written in 2014, “Dark Horse” and its newly named but accompanying jam “(7hunder)” have recently returned to the live rotation with widespread fan approval after being released as the album’s first single in March of this year.
Dark he fights, won’t let the night steal our soul
If one singular track is to define this record, let it be “The Labyrinth.” A musical odyssey and compositional masterpiece, this wordless juggernaut leaves all interpretation to the listener. Personally, I imagine it to be a reflective trip back through time, not just through the previous eight tracks but through the lifelong journey that brought me to this time and place. You know the old saying, “If I knew then what I know now?” Well, with its happy chords and its bounding solos, its acoustic sentiment and its electric joy, “The Labyrinth” hearkens that passage of time with a heavy sense of accomplishment, of knowing. And what could be more appropriate for a song first written by Mitarotonda for his *high school* band–The Shenanigans, ha!– that we are just hearing now for the first time. “It’s the very old, new thing,” he admits. And while its title suggests a complicated irregular network of paths in which it is difficult to find one’s way, its effect is to imbue the listener with a feeling of having conquered the maze that is life. Transcendence. As the song reaches its conclusion and the track fades away, Peter Anspach’s heartfelt laughter is the last thing we hear. Perfect, just absolutely perfect.
An intricate composition, “The Labyrinth” is an ambitious track even for the studio. Having never been performed live and with summer tour just a few days away, my loins tingle with excitement as I contemplate how this compositional piece will debut in the improvisational setting of a live show. This could easily be the best piece of music in the catalog.
Deep into the forest he will go
I came for the party in the woods, but I stayed because I found a place where my insides match my outsides. The Flodown may have drawn me in, but The Spirit Of The Dark Horse cast its spell. The Universe makes no mistakes, and the emergence of this music and the people it brought into my life are amongst the beautiful offerings that elevated me as I confronted my demons. The human body is an incredible machine, the mind the world’s finest supercomputer. Given our instinctive ability to adapt, getting stuck in The Same Old Shenanigans is almost too easy. Echoing Rick Mitarotonda’s thoughts, “It’s hard to really need to dig, to need to seek when you’re comfortable. Life has a way of driving you to certain places. You’re not going to … start asking questions in a very poignant way until (you) need to.”
No more demon roars
A forced helping of uncomfortability left me So Ready for heady excavation. Now, over a year later, revelations on the personal front, coupled with a change in national leadership and baby steps toward Uniting our States have freed us from our collective Labyrinth. In addition to a seemingly overnight emergence from a year-long pandemic, the stage has been set for an artististic, cultural, and individual Renaissance of biblical proportion. Dawn. If you find yourself unwilling or unable to experience the beauty of the rising sun, consider this timeless quote, “A skeptic is a person who, when he sees the handwriting on the wall, insists it is a forgery.”
Pure pure pure
In a world where authenticity is in woefully short supply, Shenanigans Nite Club is refreshing and honest. But it wasn’t easy. “While we’ve been touring, the record has been happening in the background,” says Mitarotonda. “It’s been quite the process. At times, it was difficult. The record is a companion to those growing pains.” A testament to longevity, focus, hard work, growth, and friendship, it’s also proof positive that everything happens for a reason. Darkness both follows and precedes light. And vice versa. But don’t take the meaning that I found in it, give it a listen and let it speak to you. Can’t wait to see y’all out there as we trudge the road of Happy Destiny.
You know I’m coming back for more