I don’t know about your town’s underground music scene, but the one in my town is pretty dead. Not musically, because Lord knows that there are plenty of quality bands putting out great music. But as exciting as the music might be, you’d never know it if you went to a local show. What is it with indie kids and their aversion to dancing? Oh sure, you might seem someone occasionally bobbing their head or tapping their feet, and someone might spastically jerk their body every so often… but that’s about it. Just once, I’d like to see a crowd just break it down and bust a move (aside from a Faint concert).
!!! (pronounced “chic chic chic,” “bang bang bang,” or any other monosyllabic word repeated quickly three times) came to Omaha once, opening for Tristeza and The Good Life. Granted, those two bands don’t really encourage one to hit the dance floor, so I don’t think the crowd was really ready for !!!‘s full-on dancehall assault. I know I wasn’t. I saw a bunch of scraggly-looking kids piling on stage with old, beaten up horns and guitars break it down like it hasn’t been broken down since the glory days of Kool And The Gang. While their music didn’t blow me away — though they certainly got an “A” for effort — I did end up picking up their CD.
Of course, it languished on my shelf until a few weeks ago, when it suddenly entered into regular rotation both at work and in my car. I don’t know why I didn’t fully appreciate it when I saw them, but this CD has got the funk… and in spades. Imagine, if you will, a mixture of Fugazi’s angular post-punk stylings and, oh, KC and the Sunshine Band. That’s right… !!! may just be the world’s first post-punk funk group. Somehow, !!! has found a way to tank angular, noisy guitar stylings and gritty atmospherics and work them into a funky, danceable context.
At first, it might rub you in all the wrong ways. But part of !!!‘s skill is that they give their songs plenty of time to develop. With the average song length being over six minutes, there’s ample time for their music to enter your ears and head straight for your booty. “The Step” starts off with a steady drumbeat, along with cowbell, electronic bleeps, and guitar scrapings. And then the song explodes with a bassline — that most essential of funk tools — so slinky, your body’s twitching before you know it. It all culminates in a horn-powered chorus that could even give Tower of Power indie cred, with vocalist Nic exclaiming “We’re just livin’ it up/‘Cuz it’s all that we got/And that’s a lot.”
!!!‘s drawn out approach stumbles a little bit towards the album’s middle, especially on “There’s No Fucking Rules, Dude.” At over eight minutes, it has its share of interesting guitar interplay, but it’s slow rhythm and vocal loops get a little wearisome. Of course, that’s all forgotten by the time “Intensify” breaks it off. Nic leads his cohorts in a chant of “Can you feel it intensify?” right before the song does just that with one of the toughest breakdowns I’ve heard in awhile. And “Feel Good Hit of the Fall” takes the funky proceedings and weaves in a little seasonal nostalgia:
Summer’s pile of regrets was only spring’s lost bets
And if it wasn’t fall outside it was in
So just button up your coat
Here it comes here we go
Just remember tomorrow never knows
And the colors are gonna be ones like you’ve never seen
At one point in “The Step,” Nic proclaims “They used to say we were crazy/Well, look at us now we’re amazing.” Not quite, grasshopper, but you’re pretty darn close. The album is not only hampered by it’s pacing, but also by production that tends to muddy everything a bit. And Nic’s voice doesn’t always have the “oomph” needed to convince others to get down with their bad selves. But I consider those small quibbles, considering how many times I’ve busted a move to !!!. When the day comes that !!! lives up to Nic’s words, look out, ’cause no indie kids are going to be standing still when !!! comes to your town.