SireIn the late 1970s and '80s, it seemed the Sire label, thanks to its 1976 distribution deal with Warner Bros., owned the trademark on cool. During the two decades Sire was paired with Warner, the label released records from a fledgling Madonna, while also breaking ska ground with English Beat and Madness. The label also explored synth pop with Erasure, Yaz, Soft Cell, Depeche Mode and Book of Love and cornered the punk market with the Ramones. Sire's alternative roster included the Replacements, the Smiths and the Cult, and the label scored huge one-hit wonder tracks with Modern English's "I Melt With You," M's "Pop Musik" and Belly's "Feed the Tree."

All these artists and hits are included on Just Say Sire: The Sire Records Story.

The amazing box set of 61 songs on three CDs, with an additional 20 videos on a DVD, features a track list that reads like the Billboard hits chart for a decade. The set opens with Madonna's "Everybody" and continues through English Beat's "Mirror in the Bathroom," Soft Cell's "Tainted Love" and Tom Tom Club's "Genius of Love." Other songs include Seal's "Crazy," the Cure's "The Love Cats," Morrissey's "Everyday Is Like Sunday" and Aztec Camera's "Oblivious." Other acts represented include Blancmange, Ofra Haza, Kid Creole, the Rezillos, the Smiths, My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Richard Hell, Wilco, the Pretenders, Lou Reed and Ministry.

The DVD includes classic MTV-era videos from M, the Ramones, the Cure, Erasure, Talking Heads, Madonna, Belly, Echo & the Bunnymen, Pet Shop Boys, and Barenaked Ladies.

The box set includes liner note essays from Sire founders Seymour Stein and Richard Gottehrer, (who first began the label as a tiny independent in 1966) as well as by the set's producer and Warner Bros. executive Bill Bentley. After these illuminating essays, the booklet of notes offers photos and descriptions of all of the bands represented on the box, as well as quotes from many of the artists on their relationship with Stein and Sire. This box is truly a treasure trove of groundbreaking music, as well as a testament to a crucial, ever-changing record label that still continues to thrive.


Go! Team The Go! Team
Thunder, Lightning, Strike

One of the big critical "buzz" bands of this year's giant music industry convention South by Southwest was The Go! Team. The young English group has a polyrhythmic core and a penchant for playing odd instruments, alongside the standard bass-guitar-keyboard configuration — like harmonicas and toy flutes.

They indeed put on a rousing show, one of the best of the 40-plus bands I saw at the festival. Now their debut CD is out on Columbia, and while it doesn't quite give the same taste as their live show, it certainly shows a band bristling with fun and energy.

Recorded intentionally low-fi, the CD sometimes sounds more like a demo than a polished album, with the vocals mixed far in the background, so as to seem almost incidental, and the drums recorded as if they were caught playing on AM radio.This is the frustrating part of the recording, since the music sounds tinnier and far away rather than clearly recorded and powerfully in-your-face as the Go! Team is live. Nevertheless, it's a catchy jam of an album, a groove statement not to be missed.

This isn't an act that has a "lead singer" per se, but rather a collective of groove-rock musicians who occasionally all chant key phrases during their jams. The band's ever buoyant rhythms and hooky melodies are hard to resist. And once you get used to the low-tech sound of the recording, you'll find plenty to shake to here.

The Go! Team's modus operandi is to mix 1970s-esque horn and disco grooves with unobtrusive rhythm guitar twangs, harmonica fills and piano chords, instrumentally sounding like a marriage of the classic English '80s act the Housemartins with a crack '70s disco band. The instrumental horn and drum rouser "Junior Kickstart" sounds like a track rescued from the original soundtrack to "Shaft."

The disc opens with an almost instrumental groove with horns and harmonica while the next track, "Ladyflash," melds a couple of song samples with "shoop shoop" 1960s girl group vocals, a melody played by a violin, an urgent drum-bass groove and more. It's a rhythmic kitchen sink that works phenomenally well.

Likewise, "Power is On" glues a simple piano chord riff to a marching rhythm, handclaps and vocals that sound like a cheerleader chant. And the barking cheerleader-esque chorus of "We Just Won't Be Defeated" sounds like the perfect get-on-your-feet opening to a high school pep rally.

The closer, “Everyone's a VIP to Someone” opens with a banjo before slipping in some strings and an almost lullabye-like harmonica line, but the CD's best track comes just before it – “Huddle Formation” is the ultimate cheerleader-drum-harmonica groove song and finds the band chanting their own name at one point. You'll want to clap your hands everytime you hear it.

To learn more about the band, and to hear song samples, you can check its Web site at