Manages to sound fresh despite never straying from their winning formula.
You typically know what you’re going to get from !!!. Deep, nimble basslines, freewheeling funk guitar, propulsive percussion and a shifty sheen of synth all driven home by frontman Nic Offer’s cocksure, breathy vocal. The New York-based band favors snappy wordplay and hyperbole, especially when it serves the goal of dancing with abandon. Offer is, after all, known for cutting a rug in his boxers at the band’s rowdy live shows. Often, their albums stem from material plucked from extended jam sessions, with Offer assembling the best bits into a framework that can then be retrofitted with irreverent party anthem lyrics, and that’s especially true of the band’s seventh LP, Shake the Shudder, the genesis of which arose from hours of the band jamming in Barcelona.
For the most part, !!! once again uses their familiar formula for their ageless punk funk, a distinctive sound that induces far more gyration than introspection. However, one major difference finds Offer stepping back somewhat from centerstage, and the music takes on further dimension with the addition of female vocals from a half dozen featured guests, including a dreamy, reverb-laden contribution from band member Rafael Cohen’s four-year-old daughter on “What r u up 2Day?”. There’s something oddly fitting about her tripped-out, echoing line “I can’t seem to find my toys,” a worst-case scenario for a band whose lyrical content usually consists of nothing deeper than varying degrees of fun.
While Shake the Shudder doesn’t for a second temper the band’s kinetic energy, the razor-sharp quips are fewer and farther between. You could chalk this up to the fact that, now 20 years into their career, !!! try to add a little depth and maturity to tracks like “Our Love (U Can Get),” which focus on the dynamics of a relationship on the rocks even amid the seismic dance beat. When Offer’s brashness is whittled down, !!! lose a little of their verve, even though the hurtling momentum of the music itself makes up for it. “Dancing Is the Best Revenge” may be the high point on the album for its ability to blend the most infectious beat with some of the best lyricism (“The voices in my head give good advice”) as the band’s typical zesty irreverence is blended with just the right amount of seasoned perspective from a group who treats dancing as a miracle balm to cure whatever ails you.
!!! are at their most exciting when their furious pace threatens to careen off the rails. “Things Get Hard” sizzles with a dark and dirty bassline and a syncopated beat that barely holds together as it tumbles forward, and nearly nonsensical lines like “Sometimes the shortest distance between two points means/ Means you have to cut through the graveyard” are counterbalanced with the weightier chorus of “Giving the best of what I have,” which feels like a thesis statement for a dance-punk band’s whose brand of funk never fails to sound earnest, urgent and unlike anything their contemporaries can cook up. The added female vocal presence is a nice flourish, even if it tends to distract from at group’s meat and potatoes. Shake the Shudder once again proves that !!! is one of those few bands that manage to sound perpetually fresh and vital despite never straying too far from their winning formula.