Release Date: Oct 16, 2015
Record label: Warp
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, New Wave/Post-Punk Revival, Alternative Dance
The funky, post-punky, always danceable !!! show no signs of slowing down on their sixth album, As If. If anything, they keep getting better with each release. Their last record, Thr!!!er, lived up to its title and this record is all-thriller, no-filler too, jammed with songs that almost dare the listener not to dance. Recorded and produced by the band with help from James Ford, Jim Eno, Ewan Pearson, Chris Coady, and Chris Woodhouse, and culled from an intense session of songwriting done by driving force Nic Offer and bassist Rafael Cohen, the album was recorded in studios around America.
If anyone needed an example of how !!! don’t take themselves too seriously, it’s found on the artwork to their sixth album ‘As If’. A monkey sitting proudly upon a pile of bananas - that’s indicative of a playful spirit running right through the album. ‘As If’ sees !!! attempting to fully realise and recapture their go-to live sound, something which they haven’t always ticked in the past, not least on their last album, 2013’s patchy ‘Thr!!!ler’.
In the early days of !!!, members Nic Offer, Tyler Pope and Justin Van Der Volgen formed side project Out Hud as an outlet to create a sound more deeply rooted in the early 2000s electronic scene. As the Sacramento, CA dance punkers began to expand their musical range, !!! began to incorporate Out Hud's sleek aural aesthetic in their own, allowing them to take more musical chances and establish a broader, more all-encompassing sound. On As If, the sextet's sixth release, !!! have again expanded their rubbery personality, incorporating elements of late '80s disco and hi-NRG flair.
After 18 years and five albums you’d be forgiven to if you started to run out of steam. This cannot be said for Sacramento’s !!! (aka Chk Chk Chk). Their sixth album As If, released through their long-time home of Warp Records, is a heady mix of punk funk indie disco, but with an added layer of poppy sheen. The title was my initial response when I heard this – but the resulting album is a career high.
It may well be no surprise that !!!’s sixth studio album is one that stays true to the bands initial output but melds it in interesting ways so that it never tires over its eleven dance infused tracks. Early releases saw them loosely get caught up with the dance punk revival of the mid-2000s and, though they still firmly hold onto much that drew them comparisons alongside The Rapture and LCD Soundsystem, they’re not afraid of also taking positive steps forward. Opener "All U Writers" stays true to the bands initial principles of blending electronic and organic elements to form a five minute long funk-edged dance track that grooves under starry-eyed melodies and gives a clear insight into what will often follow in the slick disco R&B of "Sick Ass Moon" and subsequent songs.
Despite popular perception, !!! never quite fit with the dance-punk explosion of the early-to-mid-'00s. While an endless procession of angular Gang of Four imitators came and went, !!! carved out a space for themselves as disco true believers, foregoing the calculated dourness of the '80s for the joyous excesses of the decade prior. Few of their peers were releasing epic singles that stretched for almost 10 minutes (2003's now-classic "Me and Giuliani Down by the School Yard (A True Story)"), or essentially trolling fans with something as simple as their name ("It's pronounced 'Chk chk chk'," "Actually, it's any three monosyllabic sounds in rapid succession," etc.).
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Sacramento's !!! (Chk Chk Chk if you want to Google them) are pretty hard to pin down these days. Six albums in and their old punk-funk formula, which was typically the sound that they proudly brandished, is getting less and less evident with each new full-length release. Nic Offer - their highly charismatic, cool as hell frontman and co-founder - is pretty forthcoming about his continued desire for !!! to remain an experimental, collaborative, ever-evolving outfit.
You can’t google !!!. You may well be trying to do it right now, but you’ll draw a blank. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. The same goes for Bing, Yahoo!, even Wolfram Alpha. Search engine optimisation issues aside, this lack of results is pretty symbolic of the void beneath the surface of the Californian ….
It's fair to say !!! have never quite fulfilled their potential. Since releasing their debut LP way back in 2001, the outfit have only shown sporadic flashes of their funk-fuelled brilliance. Too often records such as Myth Takes and Louden Up Now motored into life with taut, dancefloor reverberations before sputtering to a cold, hard stop. .
There hasn’t been much punk in !!!’s dance music for some time now. Over the years, the grooves have evolved into full-on disco tunes. The early records — 2001’s self-titled debut and 2004’s Louden Up Now — and much of 2007’s Myth Takes were strongly influenced by disco, but not owned by it; they didn’t boogie, they bounced, forging soul-infused rhythms out of rocking punk riffs.
!!! have been lurking at the bottom of iTunes libraries everywhere since 2001, cheerfully reminding the world that there were survivors of the mass dance-punk extinction of the late noughties. While their New York-based peers eventually accepted the limitations of their short, spontaneous scene; these unhinged Sacramento boys have revelled in the challenge of maturing while retaining the immaturity inherent in their band's conception. Other acts usually chase continued relevance and musical integrity by delving ever further into the obtuse and inaccessible, but !!! (or Chk Chk Chk.