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!!! (chk chk chk)



Now that Prince is Prince again, a new artist with an unpronounceable name just had to come along. And here you have it, in the form of !!!. Actually, the name is subject to myriad pronunciations, as the utterance of any repetitive sound in triplicate (for example, "Chk Chk Chk" or "Pow Pow Pow" -- or "Prince Prince Prince," if you like) is considered acceptable. The Sacramento septet makes what you could call danceable post-punk, for lack of a better expression. It's an unruly collision between raw funk and ska-inflected punk. Sort of like the music you might have heard if Sly and the Family Stone had come of musical age as smart working class blokes in late '70s England hanging about with Gang of Four and The Fall. !!!'s rhythms are as nervous and jittery as they come, flayed by thin wiry guitars, then transformed into a strange kind of manic funk by sweaty horns that come in out of nowhere. Singer Nic issues dry, declamatory vocals that just serve to make the rhythms more intense. It's weird stuff, certainly like nothing you're used to, catchy in an almost wordless, amelodic way.

!!! officially formed in '96 at a Sacramento dance party, emerging in part from the ashes of The Yah Mos with an unapologetic desire to just play funk. The band shares members with Outhud. They've released a 12-inch split EP with Outhud, as well as a seven-inch, and a self-titled debut LP on GSL, which is where you'll find the featured "There's No Fucking Rules, Dude," a nine minute exhortation to forget your worries and just shake your ass...dude.

Then, three years after unleashing their first Caucasian funk explosion on the unsuspecting indie rock world, after setting skinny white hipsters dancing like they'd never danced before, after splitting geographically (the septet's members now reside in both Sacramento and Brooklyn), and after signing to Touch and Go Records, !!! returned with Louden Up Now, a thicker, more unpredictable, and more thoroughly manic affair than their debut. If a singer can be inspiredly inane, Nic Offer is, with goofy rants that often visit politics, as on the disco-punk epic "Me and Giuliani down by the Schoolyard (A True Story)," a rambling attack on New York's cabaret laws originally released as a 12-inch single in 2003, and the satisfyingly blunt "Pardon My Freedom," with its invitation to current president to "suck my fucking dick" and its frothing chorus of "Like I give a shit about that motherfucking shit." Politics aside, this band is about dancing, more so than ever in fact, as they discovered after their first record that their hedonistic stew of punky funk played well in clubs. So the neo-disco thing is definitely in effect, with electronic flourishes aplenty and a heavy rump-shaking groove that sounds especially good accompanied by the "King's Weed" (track four). But there are many surprising moments to choose from; the production is willfully all over the map, as !!! flirts with reprocessed white boy soul, strutting jazz-funk skronk, Krautrock grind, and spartan minimalism, without ever getting away from the dance energy. On their first album, !!! announced that "there's no fucking rules, dude." It's great to see them following through on their own edict.