As a rule, punk-funk has been one of the most uptight of genres. In the early ’80s that was the general point: to subversively combine the austerity of post-punk with the notional abandon of dance music. Dancing became a political act as well as a liberating one, as Gang Of Four made rhythmic capital out of Marxist theory.
There’s an element of this in Louden Up Now, the second album by New York/Sacramento septet!!! (it’s usually pronounced “Chk! Chk! Chk!”). On “Me & Giuliani Down By The Schoolyard”, singer Nic Offer invites the former New York mayor onto the floor for an energetic bout of self-improvement (“y’all could learn a lesson by losing inhibitions”). But while !!! incorporate political rhetoric into their brittle grooves, there’s a critical difference between them and many of their po-faced antecedents.
Chiefly, !!! appear to have few inhibitions of their own, being a triumphantly uncool band who’ve inadvertently stumbled into fashion. Formed in Sacramento in the mid-’90s, their dry, percussion-heavy music became the height of cool thanks to The Rapture and other DFA-affiliated bands. Louden Up Now, then, continues to draw on a hipster’s almanac of influences (A Certain Ratio, The Pop Group, Can, Chic) as well as some less credible ones (The Lo-Fidelity Allstars).
But it’s exuberant dorkiness, as well as fluidity of playing, that makes !!! stand out. Offer is a buoyant, foul-mouthed frontman; on the choppy rant of “Pardon My Freedom” alone he suggests President Bush should “suck my fucking dick”, tells Christians he’s “taller than Jesus” and disapproves of some venetian blinds.
Its daftness occasionally grates as much as it amuses, and there are moments when you wish Offer would shut up and let the band get on with it. Live, his gaucheness is infectious, but a ham-fisted anti-Bush/Blair rant on “Shit Scheisse Merde” illustrates how !!!’s positive attributes can also be negative ones. As a result, this isn’t as strong as S.T.R.E.E.T.D.A.D, the superb 2002 album by Outhud, a band sharing many members?including Offer?with !!!. Still, Louden Up Now is an irresistible party record that, alongside S.T.R.E.E.T.D.A.D and The Rapture’s Echoes, is rich enough to survive transient fads. “Catch me singing this in 20 years at some local county fair,” spits Offer, and it’s hard to imagine, even then, that anyone will have figured out how to becalm this indefatigable, empowering band.