!!! THR!!!ER(Warp) Buy it from Insound
The ever unsearchable !!! has released their fifth studio album, and I expected the same noise-dance-house-punk that I mostly just pretended to like circa 2003. More random weirdness that was a crazy fun time, but never much more than a mishmash of sound that created a patchworky, incohesive mess. Think back to Me and Giuliani... great as it may be, it is hard to listen to, too jerky and unpredictable to get into the groove.
THR!!!ER doesn't play that game. The album's smoothness makes total sense, and though that may mean that there's a bit of experimentation sacrificed, the result is a highly listenable (and yes -- accessible, can we stop using that word pejoratively?) album. Nic Offers* us a deep-voiced croon straight off the gate on Even When the Water's Cold, an almost Beck-reminiscent track with a solid dance beat chorus. After a somewhat lackluster second track, we move onto the meat of the album.
Now's a good a time as any for me to interrupt our scheduled programming and get up on my soapbox: disco is back, people. EMBRACE IT. Likely if I'd come of age in the '70s, I would have hated disco with wild abandon, embracing glam rock and punk and all things counter-culture instead. You might still feel that way about disco, but you'd be wrong. It's awesome. It's a fucking good time. !!! isn't the only band getting with the resurgence, but they're doing it really fucking well.
Back to specifics. How amazing is that falsetto on One Girl/One Boy? Sure, it's disco reimagined, but you can just see John Travolta strutting those white bell bottoms down a busy thoroughfare to the beat of this drum. Slyd is my absolute favorite. I was crushing hard right from the Out Hud vocal throwback break right at the start, with Molly Schnick inserting her own "stop: hammer time" with a giggling, "Mmm, no, that's weird." It's a club track with a disco rhythm, polished up to modernity. It's a perfect example of how a patchwork of styles, samples, and rhythms can come together cogently; a total prerequisite to anyone but the most skilled dancer.
All right, fine, so the whole album isn't literal disco. Nor should it be -- it's just an undercurrent pulling all the tracks together. We need occasional breaks for tracks like Fine Fine Fine, a more '80s new wave Cure vibe. The closing track, Station (Meet Me at the) is as close to straight rock as !!! is ever going to get. These songs aren't out of place, but let's face it -- disco is more fun. The Scissor Sisters feel of Californyeah, perhaps a predictable west coast homage, but with a great sense of humor. "I miss California just almost as much as I miss you/But why would I live somewhere where the bars close at two?/That ain't right." Peppered with an "Ohhh YEAH" straight out of Ferris Beuller, the track is a total gold rush*. Except Death might be the most obvious Bee Gees inspired, literal disco interpretation. It's not as successful because it's too on the nose -- the bass line is this close to copyright infringement. I don't think this is necessarily a strike against the record; turning the disco knob up or down from track to track is a wise move.
Bottom line, this is a fun, solid output from !!!; a highly enjoyable trip with full cohesion, no true blunders, and at least three standouts on an album with only nine tracks. I wouldn't mind hearing some remixes if they ever crop up. THR!!!ER seems like a veritable playground for that sort of thing.
*God, I'm sorry, I think I am clinically incapable of passing up a pun.9 May, 2013 - 04:18 — Gabbie Nirenburg