It’s been a whole ten years since the first (and last) time I happened upon !!!, they were unceremoniously buried down an uninspiring bill which featured The Magic Numbers in the headline slot. Yes folks, 2007 was a strange year and no mistake. Since then, I have pretty much ignored !!!, not because I found them as flaccid as (..insert own simile as appropriate) but simply because they gave the impression of being too clever by half; even the name smacks of a knowing cynicism and makes it damn hard to Google them effectively. I also have an aversion to the term ‘dance-punk’. On this basis, imagine my world-weary gasp of exasperation upon being handed their seventh album, Shake The Shudder, to wrap my ears around.
However, within the opening 60 seconds of ‘The One 2’ my perceptions have been re-drawn and the bass on my Sonos turned up to eleventy-stupid. What have I been missing over the last decade and why has no one told me these guys are goooood? Never mind Chk Chk Chk these fellas should re-label themselves Chic Chic Chic! My neighbours may be having an extension built but the humongous slabs of rhythm on the album can easily drown out the worst excesses of relentless drilling and dubious sexual humour. Frontman Nic Offer may not be blessed with golden tonsils but he has a delivery which dovetails to perfection with the precise disco undercurrents which underpin the album from start to finish. The rain may be unremitting against my window but inside !!! are taking me on a whirlwind trip from Ibiza in the 90s (‘Imaginary Interviews’) back to sleazy New York discos in the 70s (‘NRGQ’) whilst taking in a modicum of Krautrock (‘What r u up 2Day‘).
Put simply, Shake The Shudder has no place in 2017. We are supposedly living in austere and potentially apocalyptic times, with little indication of precisely when the handcart is going to deliver us to Hell. For some reason, !!! haven’t read the memo; or if they have then a decision has been taken to ignore its content and set about creating an album of unrelenting cheer coupled with as many floor-filling, wall-shaking, groin-thrusting bangers as they can muster. The result isn’t just intoxicating, it’s a triumphant two fingers up to the doom merchants across the globe. If there is a political message to be gleaned then perhaps ‘Dancing Is The Best Revenge’ sums it up to a tee with Offer opening with the line “Maybe I’ve no fear” which is perhaps an apt clarion call for us all right now. Sod the fact we’re all going to be barbecued by a sociopath any day now, let’s just strap on our glad rags and party like it’s…well…2017, I guess.
Any Michelin starred chef will tell you the secret to great food is merely great ingredients, treated with simplicity and skill. On Shake The Shudder, !!! has done precisely the same; this an album choc full of talent, mixed with the occasional quality guest vocal and the result is a confident, rapturous joy of an album which will leave you aching from smiling too much. In other words, I am now eating humble pie by the bucket load, I was so wrong about !!! and feel as if I’ve wasted the last ten years of my existence. Please consider my cap doffed and my groin well and truly thrusted.
Shake The Shudder is released on May 19th on Warp