New York’s return to the dancefloor in the wake of punk has an increasingly impressive legacy. LCD Soundsystem are the most obvious recent exponents, but it is worth noting that !!!, Nic Offer’s collective of exclamation marks pronounced as Chk Chk Chk, have clocked up 20 years of mayhem in Brooklyn. Shake The Shudder, a fitting celebration of ballroom, drag and disco culture, finds them on peak form.
It only takes two minutes to gauge it as an improvement on their last album As If, where the band on occasion felt like they were going through the motions. This record feels more necessary, made in the throes of a post-Trump need to let the hair down, celebrate diversity and identity, and just go out and have a big dance. At their best, !!! are the soundtrack to your wildest party. This is music whose first principle is to make you move, and from the off they deliver on that promise. Writhing, low-slung bass lines underpin some seriously funky music, the rhythm section on top form.
Offer himself sounds more up for it too. At times you suspect he gets so lost in the music he’s out there dancing in front of the mic rather than singing. It’s tempting to think that happened throughout the recording of Shake The Shudder, made in a matter of days rather than weeks. This decision explains the instinctive grooves, feelings and sentiments. Less polish perhaps, but much more sweat, sawdust and humanity.
It also helps that Offer has a guest vocalist or two to share the duties. Lea Lea is the most effective of these on The One 2 – but in reality the real stars of the show are the lower end. Dancing Is The Best Revenge grooves irrepressibly, thanks to a curvy bass line and a strutting beat; peacock feathers would work well with this one. Things Get Hard is just as good, with a rump shaker bass, the sort of musical loop that would explain Offer’s grimaces on the record’s cover.
The bottom end continues to shine on Throw Yourself In The River and Throttle Service, which has an affirmative chant and some healthy cross rhythms, while Our Love (U Can Get) has a pure New York disco feel and works an absolute treat.
You’ll gather from this that Shake The Shudder is very much business as usual from !!!, though there is extra spice to their modern disco this time around, an all-inclusive party that gives the middle finger to those who dare to stand in its way. It is a wholly affirmative illustration of music’s unifying power.