Californian dance-punk five-piece !!! (say it “chk chk chk”) has been skirting the edges of the UK’s alternative musical consciousness for some years now, providing the early hours of darkened indie clubs with hypnotic music tinged with sticky funk grooves, Pet Shop Boys-esque electronica and a bit of dub added in for good measure. Hard to pronounce is their name, genre blending is their game.
Their last album, Strange Weather (2010), consists of elastic bass lines, funky guitar riffs and a gratuitous saxophone solo (last heard circa the 1980s), all overlaid by the distant vocals of lead singer Nic Offer. Whilst perfect for your average dance-drained reveller hanging on to the 4am remnants of a Friday night out, it fails to exhilarate the keener, (soberer) ear.
Three years later and the awkwardly named band have released the equally – if not more so – uncomfortably titled Thr!!!er as their fifth album to date (Seriously, try pronouncing that – you will sound like a cat coughing up its breakfast).
Despite my aversion to their approach to the English language, I’m pleased to find that Thr!!!er is a refreshing development from !!!’s previous work. The album opens with ‘The Water’s Cold’, a slick, catchy number that hints of a musical formulae rejuvenated by one healthy dose of restraint and deliberation in the recording studio. By and large, the rest does not disappoint. ‘One Boy/One Girl’ gets feet a-tapping as it explores bouncy slap bass lines and tambourine shakings that sound altogether so up-beat it’s almost summery.
Admittedly, my enthusiasm for the album wanes towards the end and by track 7 I am mentally looking at my watch. Thankfully, the final song goes some way to redeeming this lull; ‘Station’ is a feisty, full-bodied wake-up call that thrashes with crashing drums and anarchic, juvenile lyrics.
Whilst less ‘dancey’ than what we’re used to from them, Thr!!!er offers a clear-cut and dynamic collection of songs featuring all the hall-marks of the !!! sound. Just this time it’s carried out with a little more polish and little more finesse. No longer am I hypnotised by the rhythms of another vapid, anonymous dance track; I’m sitting up, wide awake, and listening.