Upon disbanding the Yah Mos, several former members of that Sacramento hardcore band launched !!! (pronounced by repeating any three syllables, with “chik chik chik” being the most common choice) in 1996 in California, playing a fusion of disco and punk that leans on funk. Of the band’s seven original members, three — vocalist Nic Offer, guitarist Tyler Pope and bassist Justin Vandervolgen — were involved in the formation of Out Hud at the same time and have continued to record with that group. Pope, not the only !!!er based in New York, is also in LCD Soundsystem.
The self-titled debut mixes the Clash, Talking Heads and classic soul, with songs structured around a groove (generally guided by bass) to the exclusion of hooks. Angular guitars fill out the sound, but this is dance music with a rock edge rather than the opposite. Each track lasts for at least five minutes, but the grooves are so tight that they never wear out their welcome. Within its strict formula, the songwriting sticks to the motto of the song “There’s No Fucking Rules, Dude.” Although it’s musically derivative, with banal lyrics, nearly every track on !!! works on some level, with the drug anthem “Storm the Legion” and the inanely titled “KooKooKa Fuk-U” as high points.
Following that, the band released the single “Me and Giuliani Down by the School Yard (A True Story),” a nine-minute dance apologia built on bass, funk saxophone and humor (“I got this friend named Neil / Swears Nixon had soul / But what I’d like 2 know / Is can Giuli do the stroll?”). However, the release of Louden Up Now revealed that the group had made little artistic progress in four years. Lyricist Offer turned his attention to political matters without showing any competence for the topic: his anti-censorship manifesto, “Pardon My Freedom,” succumbs to juvenile repetition of such incisive phrases as “Like I give a fuck about that motherfucking shit.” A three-part series titled “Shit Scheisse Merde” is every bit as clever as you’d imagine. Taking the vocals out of the mix (literally or conceptually), the album has its musical moments, most notably “Hello? Is This Thing On?,” a keyboard groove overlaid by short, sharp solos on hand drums, saxophone and bass. That track and “Me and Giuliani” provide a strong center for the otherwise weak Louden Up Now. (Initial copies included a bonus disc of three album remixes and the otherwise unissued “Sunday 5:17 AM.”)