“Good things come to those who wait”
There are, perhaps, few other current musical acts to which this old adage could more appropriately be applied than live phenoms, Goose. Since their 2014 formation, the Norwalk, CT-based group had experienced a mostly slow & steady rise that was buoyed by the release of their first studio EP, Moon Cabin, in 2016, as well as the fortuitous addition of multi-instrumentalist Peter Anspach (guitar, keys, vocals) the following year. However, it wasn’t until 2019, and their string of remarkably strong summer-festival appearances, including a storied performance from central PA’s Peach Fest, before the (now) quintet began to experience their truly meteoric ascent. Since then, the group has done an exceptional job taking advantage of their newfound musical opportunities, including being handpicked by Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig to appear on their 40:42 EP, as well as a series of critically-acclaimed virtual performances and subsequent feature-film, dubbed the Bingo Tour, during the 2020 pandemic. That well-deserved momentum shows absolutely no signs of slowing down with the release of their second full-length studio effort, Shenanigans Nite Club.
Primarily recorded over the course of the past several years at their home-based Norwalk, CT studio, Shenanigans, represents a watershed moment in the band’s history, featuring a strong & cohesive collection of material that showcases the group’s formidable songwriting & improv skills and adventurous musical inclinations. The track-list, which consists of nine songs clocking in at just over an hour, is comprised of a healthy mix of some of Goose’s oldest numbers along with a handful of brand-new tracks that have yet to be performed live.
Starting things off is the disco-infused “So Ready”, which, in addition to being a fixture of Goose’s setlists since its 2015 debut, features some bubbling bass-lines from Trevor Weeks before smoothly segueing into the driving instrumental “Satellite” that acts as a de facto musical coda to the album’s opening track.
Up next is “Madhuvan”, one of Goose’s oldest songs (it was debuted in 2014), which namechecks an ancient holy forest & its associated deities, and features an extended outro jam that highlights the musical dynamic between Anspach’s subtle piano work and Rick Mitarotonda’s searing guitar riffs. “Same Old Shenanigans”, an ode to a now-defunct Connecticut night club (and inspiration for the album title), counts as the album’s lone forgettable track, despite the impressive rhythmic output of Ben Atkind (drums) and newest member, Jeff Arevalo (percussion), who formally joined the band in 2020.
“S.O.S.” is followed by the album’s first new song, “Dawn”, which starts off with some tasteful vocal trickery and leads to a climactic solo from Mitarotonda rife with his trademark tension & release fueled peaks. The latter half of the track showcases the group’s keen ability to dramatically shift gears from a musical perspective mid-composition as the song seamlessly flows from its jubilant guitar interlude into a gentle & atmospheric finale without missing a beat.
“Flowdown” represents some of the oldest material on the album, as this countrified number was originally written & performed in 2012 by Vasudo, a pre-Goose Connecticut-area jam-band that consisted of Mitarotonda, Weeks & Atkind, among others, and has been a staple of Goose setlists since their 2014 debut. This genuine knee-slapper is pretty much as close to bluegrass as it gets for Goose, and they pull it off with aplomb, featuring some interesting tempo changes underneath the lightning-quick fretwork of Mitarotonda.
The following track, “Spirit of the Dark Horse” should come as a welcome surprise for even the most hardcore fans as it marks the very first original Goose composition, though it has only been performed live a dozen or so times since 2014, making this one of the most sought-after songs in their repertoire. Inspired by a “twelve-minute meditation” between Mitarotonda & Weeks, “Dark Horse” is a funky endeavor that manages to shine despite Mitarotonda’s somewhat questionable use of auto-tune on his lead vocals.
The album comes to a triumphant close with a pair of new & (mostly) instrumental tracks, “Thunder” & “The Labyrinth.” The latter is the album’s longest, at over 12 minutes, and is intricately composed of multiple distinctly sounding, yet cohesive, musical sections that flow effortlessly with masterful segues and serious chops. However, both songs are fine examples of the band’s ability to incorporate their myriad influences into their sound while still managing to keep things fresh and with a clear focus on the future.