Album Reviews

!!! (Chk Chk Chk) – Louden Up Now

(Warp) UK release date: 7 June 2004

A few words of advice. !!! is pronounced as any three repetitive sounds. Common interpretations are: chic-chic-chic, pow-pow-pow, uh-uh-uh, “among many unlimited possibilities”, inform !!! kindly. Now this may make one seem like a buffoon when toddling down to HMV or talking to your mates. But I guess !!! weren’t thinking of the logistics of their name.

!!! are the product of two equally well monickered Sacramento dance bands – Popesmashers and Black Liquorice – who clumped together nine years ago to meld their disco and experimental sensibilities.

As an octet of party people, !!! seem to have all the perfect makings of an oddball act. Thankfully, they aren’t the next Polyphonic Spree or Slipknot. Nope, no gimmicks here. Louden Up Now is, prima facia, the party album to knock the block off, erm, Bloc Party. In fact, it’s heavily drum and bass driven, but not. By not, I mean not the speed demon rattle and pummel often pinned on d n’ b. !!! bass squeezes and wheezes, pumps and bombs, turns and twists, before levelling into some incredibly p-h-a-t rhythms.

Now while all this goes on for 53 minutes, singer Nic Offer tosses in his vocal work like caesium in water – highly reactive, very unpredictable. One minute he’s Joe Strummer on a bad day, the next, Dave Gahan on MDMA.

When The Going Gets Tough humps things off like Sister Sledge, but Offer’s entrance shifts things into a psychedelic gear. Then the sax goes off, the drum machine goes nuts and the crescendo peaks and dives into early nineties house.

Recent single Pardon My Freedom bounces in like the Scissor Sisters. But within a minute Offer has adopted a gruff yowl, blurting “Like I give a f**k, like I give a sh*t,” with the remaining seven members of !!! seemingly content with bashing out as much as they can out of a Yamaha keyboard. It’s all schizo, but brilliant nonetheless.

At times you can get lost in !!!’s gonzo maze. The percussion intersperses everywhere, very specific, very tittery. The mood and sound of each song is more fickle than a British voter, with references well controlled – a bit eighties here, a bit of proto-Pink Floyd dropped in there (Hello? Is This Thing On?).

Even so, the album can feel like a muggy night at Fabric live. Sh*t Scheisse Merde (Part 1) is like an improvised jam, with that petering feeling popping up. And when Offer bleats about what George Bush said to Tony Blair, you sorta wonder why you’re paying a tenner on the door and a fiver for a bottle of water for the same gunk. Things peg down for Part 2, with Offer assuming a George Michael cameo in an acid jazz session.

There are apolitical leanings in the lyrics, but they’re almost indecipherable against the backdrop of sounds, and Offer’s sprayed delivery. Album standout Me and Giuliani is so bouncy and funky it’s impossible to notice the attack on the former New York Mayor and his successor Bloomberg. You’d actually do well to follow Offer’s every day thoughts without reading the lyric sheet. There’s also a bonus disc with extras and reworkings, providing more material for what is a stellar soundtrack to any house party, meaning safe, fag-ash-free CDs.

“People always ask me: “What’s so f**king great about dancing?” skitters Offer, on Me and Giuliani. “How the f**k should I know? Yeah even I can barely understand it, but when the music takes over, the music takes control”.

!!! couldn’t have put it better if they tried.

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