!!! : Louden Up Now

Dusty, crowded polo fields are not exciting places, even when they’re called Coachella, and especially when they’re baking in the desert’s afternoon heat. So despite the stroke-inducing lineup at this year’s arid wasteland-cum-music festival, I wasn’t entirely surprised to find myself feeling exhilarated but exhausted at the start of the second day. The fact that I’d never heard of !!!, the band I was waiting for, and didn’t want to exasperate my brain over what exactly I was supposed to call them didn’t help matters, and a glance at the grim expressions of the sagging, hundred-strong mob around me told me I wasn’t alone.

But it didn’t take more than three minutes for each dull face in the crowd to sharpen into a mirror reflection of !!!’s frustrating verbal identity. Amidst the pools of serious-minded indie rock we had been refreshing our concentration in, seeking escape from the discomfort of the heat, was this cheeky Sacramento band that made people actually want to move. They aspired to danceable, funky fun, and succeeded, with possessed front man Nic Offer grooving and gyrating for tired Coachellers like a superfly Jim Morrison. In five minutes he had whipped the crowd into a frenzied semi-riot that pogo-ed and bobbed their love for him, being the only movement they were capable of in those tight quarters anyways.

!!!, which is pronounced as any three repetitive sounds, and most commonly as ChikChikChik, were doubtlessly one of the best performances I saw at Coachella, but a summer tour in Europe means the west coast is going to be indefinitely deprived of the hip-wiggling septet. Luckily for us, however, we have !!!’s second full-length album, Louden Up Now, to boogie down to while we wait for them to come home.

Louden ranges from the unlikely marriage of disco, funk and punk that electrifies it’s opening tracks to the trip-hoppy “Shit Sheisse Merde,” which sprawls across the latter end of the album in three separate parts. As a whole, the album is very well balanced, infecting you with it’s beat early on, and then mellowing out later with the more introspective “Hello, Is This Thing On?” and the trippy “Theme from Space Island.” It never becomes too sedate, however, picking up the tempo when it needs to with dancefloor-shakers like “Me and Giuliani Down By The School Yard (A True Story).

Echoing guitars regularly streak across !!!’s aural landscape, and over their funky bass and bone-jiggling drumbeats. “Lose yourself in the music” Offer urges in “Giulianni,” and the swarm of sounds that envelopes you on each track makes it easy to follow his lead.

Offer’s words spice up the already boiling atmosphere of the record with a defiant razor-wit directed towards political targets and uptight people in general. Having fun with the title “Shit Sheisse Merde,” Offer asks “What did George Bush say when he met Tony Blair?/ He said you act like you care and I act like I care and we both stay rich/ rich as shit, sheisse, merde.” “Pardon My Freedom,” the track that probably gained Louden its ironic “explicit lyrics” sticker, is a cathartic assault on censorship that stops just short of a primal scream. “I won’t deny I’ve got a dirty mouth” Offer says in that, and the words that follow are the reason it’s become my personal (and probably unhealthy) soundtrack to being trapped in freeway traffic.

I’m not sure what sorts of dance parties play !!! (or entirely how to dance to them, exactly), but it’s a shame there aren’t more of them around. They’re really in a strange, mutating class of their own, and I hope to God that whatever it is, it catches on in the west coast music scene. Far more fun and innovative than the maddening techno beats that flood most clubs, !!! has made dancing to modern music possible again.

Similar albums:
Out Hud – S.T.R.E.E.T.D.A.D.
Gang of Four – Entertainment!
Radio 4 – Gotham

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