Wallop doesn’t really have any actual hits, no matter how hard it tries.
On some level, if you’ve heard one !!! album, you’ve heard them all. With the exception of their career-best Myth Takes or the also-excellent THR!!!ER, their albums have long been vessels for fantastic hits, which they then surround with filler and throwaway jams that work well as background party music but do very little to pull your focus. This is one of the most perplexing things about the band: with hits of all shades like “Me and Giuliani Down By the Schoolyard,” “Must Be the Moon,” and “Even When the Water’s Cold,” among plenty of others, you’d think the band could turn in an album full of killer songs that operate not just as dance hits but as legitimate songs worthy of your attention.
Wallop, the band’s eighth album, regrettably does nothing to change this, and at this point even the faithful will likely find their devotion to the band faltering. In short, Wallop doesn’t really have any actual hits, no matter how hard it tries. Opener “Let It Change U” aims for hard-hitting beats and a quasi-infectious chorus, as the ever-energetic Nic Offer sings “Why won’t you let the rhythm change you?/ Why won’t you let it rearrange a thing or two?.” The band has a knack for dynamite openers—“Even When the Water’s Cold,” from THR!!!ER, “Myth Takes” from Myth Takes, “AM/FM” from Strange Weather, Isn’t It?—but right off the bat, they fumble with attempts at captivating the listener.
It really isn’t until the album’s single, “Serbia Drums,” that !!! really start to pick up the pace. It’s a total rush of drums and bells and throwback dance-punk vibes, all anchored by Offer, sounding somehow superhumanly self-assured and self-aware: “You’d think it all turned out to be/ Like we plotted and schemed/ Why does it feel empty anyway?” This is likely the best song the band has written since “Even When the Water’s Cold,” and somehow manages to shake the band up enough that it doesn’t always sound like !!! at all. The energy of the song is infectious enough to make “My Fault” feel equally sleek and vital, an awesome trick. Wallop isn’t great, but these moments are enough to make you forget that fact.
After that, the album loses focus. “Slow Motion” and its brief, clearly-filler coda “Slo Mo” are boring and even veer into obnoxious, the boisterous beat dragged down considerably by sluggish vocals that, while still refreshingly self-aware (“They say these things happen for a reason/ We all know that’s bullshit,” “I’m not gonna say I saw it coming/ But in hindsight, I had been a total fucking idiot/ But everyone’s a total fucking idiot sometimes, right?”), drag the song down considerably. The swing-and-miss of “Slow Motion”/”Slo Mo” is all the more perplexing when you reach their second attempt at twin songs, “This Is the Door” and “This Is the Dub,” the final two tracks on the album, the former giving singer Meah Pace (who showed up earlier on the forgettable “Off the Grid”) another at a duet with Offer, before being given “This Is the Dub” to do a victory lap.
It’s both relieving and frustrating that the “Door”/”Dub” one-two punch is awesome, and the best part of the album. It’s proof that the band still have vitality left in them, but it also draws glaring attention to all the times where they fall totally flat. The good news is, no matter what Wallop sounds like, the real way to hear these songs is going to be by going to see them play wherever they happen to be playing near you. !!! probably don’t need to keep making records, but if albums like Wallop are all it takes to get them on the road, may they never stop. Let’s just hope they aim a little higher next time.