Sunday, November 28, 2010

November 28: Goldfinger, "Question"

Artist: Goldfinger
Song: "Question"
Album: Hang-Ups
Year: 1997

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To honestly and accurately capture the emotions and energy of youth simultaneously has proven to be one of the more difficult tasks throughout the history of recorded music.  While many believe that they have accomplished this by simply filling a song with angst-ridden words, they are often missing the spirit of the words to make the song complete.  Though there are great examples that can be found in a number of different genres, few have achieved this representation more accurately and more consistently than one finds in the style of punk rock.  While the early years of punk were more about "fighting everything and everyone," as the years have passed, many punk bands have become more focused on the struggle of "being young," and few bands represent this idea better than California's light-hearted punkers, Goldfinger.  One of the most important bands in terms of the ska-punk revival of the 1990's, they stand today as one of the most highly respected bands of the era, and their first few albums were nothing short of classics.  Though their self-titled 1996 debut is a perfect representation of everything that makes them such a fantastic band, it is their second record, 1997's Hang-Ups, that stands as their finest work.  Filled with a more complete sound and a wider range of styles, there is not an "off" moment anywhere on the record, and the energy and attitude that makes Goldfinger so fantastic can be found in their high-octane song, "Question."

As is the case on most of their songs, Goldfinger wastes no time setting the tone for "Question," and it is in this, as well as the actual sound, where the bands' punk rock roots live.  The moment the song begins, guitarist Charlie Paulson drops a fast paced, rather aggressive progression, and it is this sound that instantly starts building tension.  Moments later, the song absolutely explodes as drummer Darrin Pfeiffer and bassist Simon Williams enter the frey, bringing an attitude and energy that matches that which Paulson set.  With John Feldman adding a second guitar to the mix, the quartet continue to build the tension and push the song along at a break-neck speed.  While the studio recording of "Question" is sure to get the listener moving, in live performances, it is this song that is able to consistently blow the roof off of any venue, throwing the crowd into absolutely joyous mayhem.  It is this aspect of the music that shows the bands' aptitude as writers, as there is no "filler" on the song, and the direct line that "Question" takes is another nod to the bands' punk rock influences.  Later in the song, the band shows off their true genius, as they change the pace and tone on a dime, dropping into a ska-style breakdown, yet never letting the overall mood of the song slip.  The fact that the band is able to make such a stark change in tempo, as well as bring more melody than a majority of their peers is not only what makes "Question"" such an extraordinary song, but it also represents the true genius behind Goldfinger as a band.

Responsible for nearly all of the music and lyrics found on the first two Goldfinger albums, John Feldman has also made his name as one of the most perfect frontmen in the history of the entire punk genre.  Much like the music, Feldman shows a wide range in hist vocal abilities, and whether he is singing or shouting his words, the emotion and energy in them always comes through with perfect clarity.  Furthermore, the style with which he sings makes nearly every song in the Goldfinger catalog a true crowd anthem, and this is also due to the universal nature of a majority of his lyrics.  This latter point is perfectly represented on "Question," as few artists in history have as accurately captured the essence of the frustrations of youth, and there is a sense of honesty in his words that help it to avoid coming off as cliché.  Centering around the idea of how "tough" growing up can be, Feldman gets almost philosophical when he states, "...'cause in the end its all you got, memories to tell about your life, and how you lived it..."  The brilliance of "Question" is how the song simultaneously speaks on how short life is and living every moment, yet there is also a sense of reckless abandon and "just going for it" that runs throughout the song.  The moment and lyrics that lead into the songs' ska-breakdown have become a live fan-favorite, and it is in these two words that the aggressive, yet amusing style of Goldfinger lives.

"Question" also stands out in the Goldfinger catalog due to the presence of Dicky Barrett making a quick vocal cameo.  Both Goldfinger and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones were part of the ska/punk revivial of the 1990's, and this is much the reason that Barrett fits in so perfectly on this track.  Yet even without his contributions, "Question" is the absolute stand-out track on Hang-Ups, as it represents everything that makes Goldfinger such an extraordinary band.  Finding the ideal balance between attitude, aggression, and amplification, there are few bands in history that bring a similarly authentic and honest sound as one finds in the music of Goldfinger.  While their later albums would come off as a bit "preachy" at times, their early records are the embodiment of the frustration and energy of youth, and while many other bands attempt to represent these ideas, few did so without coming off as "trying too hard."  It is this fact that sets Goldfinger far above their peers, and the fact that the four band members are exceptional musicians only adds to their status.  Throughout "Question," Pfeiffer seems hell-bent on either destroying his kit or simply playing so fast, that the other band members can't keep up.  This speed makes the mood on the song nothing short of mesmerizing, and the energy and tension on the song are still as powerful even after countless listenings.  Whether it is the musicianship, the spot-on lyrics, or the overall attitude of the song, there is simply no other song in history that represents feelings of frustration in quite the same way as one finds on Goldfinger's 1997 song, "Question."

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