Record Review - 2 December 30 2004

On last year’s breakthrough single “Me and Giuliani Down by the School Yard,” the seven-piece collective !!! (pronounced “Chick, Chick, Chick”) broke the DFA’s stranglehold on NYC indie-kid dance music with a jubilant nine-minute protest jam that paraded from chatty, township Afro-funk to urban-jungle post-punk. Nothing else on the group’s second full-length, Louden Up Now, quite matches it, but the disc establishes !!! as adventurous cartographers of the agit-prop groove, chasing elusive tributaries deep into uncharted territory.

“Hello, Is This Thing On?” revisits the spirit of the group’s homonymous debut, with Offer’s gravel-graded rant and the band’s chattering Afro-beat guitar and horn licks pointing to the common ground between Clash-era punk and Afro-beat’s protest funk. But this time, programmed snares crunch like collapsing buildings, and a neat Neptunes-ian acoustic-guitar lick hints at a newfound love of modern R&B’s crisp production values. On the album’s centerpiece, the three-part epic “Shit Scheisse Merde,” Offer unveils a Prince-ly falsetto before resorting to a conspiratorial whisper: “What did George Bush say when he met Tony Blair?/He said, ‘You act like you care, I act like I care, we both stay rich/Stay rich as shit, scheisse, merde.’”

Louden Up Now was assembled on computers by various band members, and occasionally its layered fragments add up to less than the sum of its parts. On the opening “(When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Gets) Karazzee,” they borrow the rubbery, plunging bass lick from Yello’s “Oh Yeah” and a cadence from Grandmaster Flash’s “White Lines.” But the song’s electro-soca block party stalls before Offer declares, “You could learn a lot from taking your pants off.” Still, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better dogmatic dance-punk anthem than “Pardon My Freedom,” where a brontosauran bass throb and a stuttering hi-hat clatter build to ecstatic heights. A siren-like guitar scream cuts through an acid-house haze, and Offer puts his politics on the line: “U can tell the president 2 suck my fucking dick.”