“Go big or go home” is a phrase that is seldom heard in indie/punk circles. Generally it’s the opposite that is true. There has been a history in indie/punk of this feeling unauthentic, as authenticity only involves who plays on the album instead of what you’re saying/sound like. Pittsburgh’s The Gotobeds have decided to ignore this maxim on their third album, Debt Begins at 30.
Instead of getting into a studio with each other again, they decided to invite some friends along. On every track. Yup. That’s right. Every track on Debt Begins at 30 features a guest spot. This idea is generally used in hip-hop, jazz and electronic circles, but here it works incredibly well.
Musically it’s business as usual from The Gotobeds. The guitars are slightly abrasive but catchy. The bass is right where you need it and holds each track to the group, and the drums sound flawless. Overall all there is a spiky, Sonic Youth vibe but with a brash optimism that is hard to ignore.
This is evident on album opener “Calquer the Hound.” Evan Richards from The City Buses and Rob Henry from Kim Phuc are the guests here. “Dross” opens with wonky feedback before broody guitars explode and a woozy riff kicks in. Bob Nastanovich, of Pavement and Silver Jews is the special guest here, and you can feel Pavement’s shadow looming large over “Dross.” “Poor People are Revolting” sees Gerard Cosloy, whose 12XU label is putting Debt Begins at 30 out, and Pittsburgh poet Jason Baldinger put make sublime cameos.
Debt Begins at 30 is an invigorating listen. After a first listen, the idea of a different vocalist or musician on each track is jarring and doesn’t quite work, but after a few listens, it starts to click, and you realize it’s actually a masterstroke.
In other genres, guest vocalists come and go, Hip-hop and electronica, we’re looking at you’re here, and we don’t bat an eyelid, but because indie/punk is generally expected to be the same individuals on every track, it feels alien. However, it’s incredibly refreshing. The only downside is that what made The Gotobeds an exhilarating and rousing band gets slightly diluted and toned down, but what we end up with is an album that is constantly changing and evolving to create a collection of 11 songs that remain a fresh and pleasurable listen throughout. After listening to Debt Begins at 30, it’s safe to say that The Gotobeds do play well with others.