There aren’t many bands who’ve emerged from the dance-punk explosion of the early noughties, and then gone on to weather the ensuing decade and a half as well as Sacramento-based band !!!. While the band’s continued longeivity (they’ve just passed their twentieth anniversary) is no doubt partially the result of a fairly devoted international fanbase, it’s also down to the band’s willingness to continually redevelop and refine their sound over each new album. While 2010’s ‘Strange Weather, Isn’t It?’ and 2013’s ‘THR!!!ER’ saw !!! hitting a slightly awkward period where it sometimes felt as though they were unsure of where to go next, 2015’s preceding ‘As If’ saw the band surrendering themselves more to the pulsating electronic disco / house elements powering beneath their angular punk-punk arrangements, resulting in one of their most enervated and vibrant albums yet.
It’s a direction that two years on, this seventh album ‘Shake The Shudder’ sees continuing. Opening track ‘The One 2’ immediately illustrates the more sheeny, electro-laced edge that a lot of newer !!! tracks carry, as crisp garage-infused breakbeats and bass synths slide against Lea Lea’s guest disco-diva vocals, the jagged funk guitar ripples injecting a vague rnb edge before the massed bass synths suddenly rear up into a wall of sound, powering things off to their streamlined conclusion. Elsewhere, ‘Dancing Is The Best Revenge’ offers one of the most obvious dancefloor fillers here (as well as this album’s second single), as ‘Thriller’ meets Prince synths flit against an elastic punk-funk bassline and airy house rhythms, the pensive Talking Heads creep of the verses exploding into a hook-laden disco chorus section that celebrates dancing as pure self-catharsis and emancipation.
Rather than coming across as cheesy, it works because of lead singer Nic Offer’s ability to convey sincerity and inclusivity in his lyrics rather than self-consciousness or elitism, something that’s always been a big part of !!!’s appeal. Elsewhere, ‘Five Companies’ calls to mind The Time’s party funk as a robust rhythm section bumps against jangling guitar riffs and fuzzed out horns, the glittering electronic effects and distorted snare breaks framing Offer’s wry lyrical hook (“five companies / ruling everything around me”). ‘Throttle Service’ meanwhile sees Out Hud’s Molly Schnick providing guest vocal harmonies on what’s easily one of the most limber house excursions here as majestic horns burst forth against a glassy synth bassline and shuffling hi-hats, only for squelching acid 303 lines to suddenly rear up during the track’s outro section, as stacked 808 snare crashes battle for space. It’s !!!’s more groove-based and dancefloor centred tracks that continue to play to the band’s greatest strengths here, and if anything, ‘Shake The Shudder’ sees them continuing to embrace classic disco grooves, whilst also continuing that genre’s original role as inclusive music for outsiders.