Down the years, Warp-signed, California-originated, NYC-dwelling, shape-throwing disco funksters !!! (Chk Chk Chk) have been responsible for some outright, undisputed bangers. Must Be The Moon. Me & Giuliani Down By The School Yard. Heart Of Hearts.
Occasionally sharing personnel with LCD Soundsystem and with a penchant for parties, !!!’s music has moved steadily away from their punk roots to a psychedelic dancefloor, in thrall to English music, reggae, Chic and the unifying power of the kick drum. And if the lyrics are less politically pressing nowadays, those beats are no less addicting.
With sixth album As If just out, and two dates at London’s Oslo to showcase its vibes, we asked front man and notable penguin impersonator Nic Offer to mine his memory for the albums that have influenced him most. This, then, in his own words, is !!!’s This Music Made Me…
My grandma bought me this to cheer me up after a skateboard accident. It was the soundtrack for that summer and the album that made me want to stop being a rocker and become a new waver.
I had spent the previous two years listening only to KZAP 98.5, but became bored after learning the entire classic rock cannon. On the pop station, there were new singles every week by Prince, Madonna, Mary Jane Girls, and the like, so I made the switch to a new funkier land. But the rest of the pop station didn’t always quite satisfy me, and when Tears For Fears came along, I knew I had to go what was considered “underground” to a 12-year-old.
TFF is often today (well and I guess yesterday as well) maligned for the pretentiousness, funny haircuts and raincoats, but at the time that was what honestly attracted me. If it was pretentious, I couldn’t tell. It suggested they knew much more of a world out there than Van Halen or I did, and I wanted to know about it. My mother was always forcing me to cut my hair when I was a rocker, but when I came home with a TFF haircut, what could she say then? I had gotten the haircut. And the albums today? Well, I still love the first three. I love the vastness of the vision. It sounds firmly entrenched in the ’80s, but like they did their own thing with it. I still love that last minute and a half of Mother’s Talk.
By this time, I was already a big OMD, and New Order fan, but this was the album where I first heard The Smiths (far and above my favorite band in high school… still love to this day, but… we’ve all talked about The Smiths a lot at this point), Echo & The Bunnymen, Suzanne Vega, Psychedelic Furs and Danny Hutton Hitters (also the last place I heard them).
This was new wave 101 for americans in 1986. I wore that cassette out. This is maybe the only album on this list I don’t still stand totally behind, cuz it certainly has a few clunkers today, but it was very important to my development.
I was talking with Rafael recently about how Joe Strummer left all his old friends and started dressing differently after he saw the Sex Pistols. This album was that moment for me and a lot of other punks in the early ’90s.
More legendary than the MC5, almost as good as the stooges and as conceptually brilliant as Public Enemy. Books will be written, films will be made about his band, and their Wikipedia page will triple in length soon enough.
When the rest of ’90s punk didn’t make sense to us, we took cues from the black music that N.O.U. nodded to and that was what started to form my tastes that continue to this day. I don’t really listen to any punk today but I put this on while writing this and it still sounds great to me. I’d recommend it to people who aren’t necessarily fans of us.
I must’ve read the Rolling Stone’s best albums of the 1980s cover to cover a dozen times. It got me into records I would’ve missed like the Feelies, Gang Of Four and this record. A record I’m always still getting my head around, it’s fresh to me every time. It’s so so so so so deep but not in a way that is immediately apparent.
There’s certainly more spaced out reggae records, but maybe that’s it. This one is just dense. It’s always reminded me of a stew or something, you can dip the spoon in and pull out different riffs, rhythms and harmonies every time. It was through imitating bass lines on records like this that first allowed me to start writing songs I really liked.
I’d advise anyone who wants to start writing songs to start by playing reggae bass. Actually the bass lines on this album can be pretty tricky. Start with Under Me Sleng Teng or something.
If there’s one record besides James Brown’s 20 greatest hits that led me to !!! it’s this one. I’m actually trying to write about records I haven’t already talked a lot about in the press but the night I first heard this is crucial to me.
I was on an acid trip with a friend and we pulled this one out. We had heard Johnny Marr had been influenced by it, so we figured if it was good enough for Johnny it was good enough for us. We accidentally put on the second side first, so the first song we heard was I Want Your Love and we were just knocked out.
When we were working on our last record THR!!!ER we actually had to de-Chic-ify our song One Girl/One Boy, which may or may not have been a mistake cuz that was the summer that Nile Rodgers hit again with Daft Punk. Turns out we probably should have made it more like Chic.
Probably my favorite band of all time. Actually, no probably about it. Definitely. The first band I understood as truly psychedelic and the first lyricists I really felt spoke to me after Morrissey (this is funny but basically true).
I found them as I was getting into punk and LSD and they were the perfect bridge between those two worlds for me. Punk was too closed minded and my more psychedelic friends never cracked a book, SY seemed to get what was great about all of those worlds. I tend to favour the first five albums more but this is my favorite of the Geffen years. A lot of people overlook this one but I think it’s one of their masterpieces.
It was a huge influence on our hit from the 2000s, Me & Giuliani Down By The Schoolyard (A True Story). All the songs on this album start out in a basic ’90s Sonic Youth pop number kinda way and then hit a trance in the middle and just stretch the fuck out. That’s what all our early songs used to do, just funkier.
Most famous for leaving the harp record playing too quiet for Brian Eno thus giving him the idea for ambient music. I’m thankful to her for that certainly, but I may be more thankful to her for this record.
OutHud (a band I used to be in) loved all the old on-u-sound records. I could actually make this whole list out of on-u records, but this was a special one to us. Adrian’s records always suggested strange worlds but Judy’s lyrics made it seem like this world was the strangest of all.
Shadowy and gauzy, dub was always a great foundation to build on. It was easy to forget that this was reggae.
Wow. I just googled this and hadn’t realized that this was not accepted as the masterpiece !!! has long considered it. Finding ’90s rnb in the midst of my ’90s punk rockedness was a surprise to me as much as anyone. This album made sense to me maybe cuz I found it in the midst of my love of rnb, smoking, tortoise and dub.
I always thought he was attempting to make a classic bedroom record in the Barry White or Sade sense (produced by Sade’s Stuart Matthewman) but updated with the trip hop/electronica sounds of the day. Another record that presents basic pop structures, then stretches out and deconstructs. I like all of his records and maybe the other ones have more obvious singles, but I like this one all the way through.
My favourite albums are the ones you can get lost in, and I’ve ben lost in this so many times and have never tired of it. God, I’m listening to it now and it sounds so good. The critics were wrong, I swear it.
A friend gave this to me when we first moved to NY and it was my most listened to record that year by far. I’m sure I listened to it on 9-11. It had a sticker on it that said something about it being the future of house music and that was exactly what we were looking for.
It’s another record that’s a bit like a stew, but I always thought of this one as a labyrinth. We didn’t know a lot about house music at the time, and a lot of it we didn’t really understand. Things that were supposed to be legendary wouldn’t quite hit us and other supposed minor things would just knock us out.
This was one that we understood for whatever reason, and understanding it made us begin to understand the other stuff even more. I just put it on and I gotta get back into this. There’s still a lot to discover here. God. The first opening notes of Synkro. Turn it up.
I think it’s important to remain a fan and keep listening to new music. Honestly, sometimes I kinda hate these articles cuz they talk about music we’ve all accepted as amazing and in some ways are kind of tired of talking about. (Do I really need to explain Prince for you? Start with Dirty Mind, Purple Rain or Sign Of The Times if u do need explaining.)
So I’m throwing this record on here cuz it’s been one of my favorites of the year. She actually sounds a bit like Judy Nylon to me, though it seems coincidental. I still remember the first summer I got into the oldies station. It seemed as strange and esoteric as something like The Cure cuz it was beamed to me from such a strange place and really 65 years ago is a strange place.
This album feels as strange to me. She seems to prefer the haze of samples from a forgotten era but her experimentalism paired with classic songwriting creates something as classic and strange as those oldies I was first knocked out by. It has mystery to it and maybe that’s the side that appeals to the kid in me, she knows mysterious things I don’t know about.
!!!’s album As If is out now through Warp. They play London’s Oslo on 23 and 24 October 2015. Tour dates and further information can be found here.