!!! is anarchy expressed in one of its most colorful forms.
Like a rose in the barrel of a shotgun, !!! is anarchy expressed in one of its most colorful forms. For the past 20 years, freedom has been a central theme for energetic front man Nic Offer and his collective of dance-punk misfits. !!! began developing its loose rules of combat back on its 2001 self-titled debut, reinforced by the march beating beneath “Storm the Legion” and the bruised disturbances of “There’s No Fucking Rules, Dude.” Enlisting the vocal timbre of Yolanda Harris Darcy and Taletha Manor for “Freedom! ’15,” from !!!’s sixth album As If, these soulful pleas are delivered far more eloquently than the frenzied anthems that lined fan-favorite LP Myth Takes. The fist-pumping moments still arise, and one certainly anticipates Offer will still be mounting amp stacks during this fresh selection of singles (e.g. closing cut “I Feel So Feel”), but the angst of “All My Heroes are Weirdos” has matured into the steady groove of “Til the Money Runs Out.”
For two decades, !!! has fostered a friendly tug-of-war between the punk and funk elements that enlighten its dance floor burners. That contest is now being comfortably dominated by the latter. Moving at the gate of that instantly-noticeable walking bassline, there is a sense of control that keeps these tracks anchored unlike prior !!! efforts. Where an artist like Dam-Funk pushed funk into new territories, Offer and company borrow the aesthetic for an instantaneous rush of audience satisfaction. Without that re-invigoration, “Funk (I Got This)” and album-opener “All U Writers” would run out of stream despite the quirky samples hidden among the anticipatory riffs. The psychedelia of “All The Way” proves that the current lineup is capable of inspired interpretations of classic themes.
Given the diverse palette that this six-piece pulls from, the textures remain limited throughout the albums 11 cuts. Instead of the freak-outs that used to line its extended cuts, !!! now relies more regularly on whimsical snippets to add moments of character to the singles. Replacing that punk angst is straight indie-pop shimmer, displayed most proudly during “Every Little Bit Counts.” Even for those that relish in the sweaty mess that Offer generates in concert, it’s hard not to hum along to the charming simplicity of “Ooo.”
Nearing their 20th anniversary, !!! now seems prepared to proudly claim the role of industry mentor. As the Sacramento based outfit and their fans have aged, one cannot fault the group for slipping casually into those deep grooves across its new album. !!! continues to challenge the status quo of both the club and indie populous, just at a more reasonable tempo. Their decision to adjust the pace should scare those still searching for the raucous electroclash beat. This band wouldn’t slow down unless it was confident a new generation was ready to carry the torch.