For their fifth studio album, Sacramento-bred dance-punk progenitors !!! wanted to develop a more fully honed patchwork of their striking hybrid of electronica, punk, funk and straight-up dance-heavy music. Their reputation as an energetic live band is old news—even though it’s still just as relevant as it was before they released their self-titled debut in 2001. What they wanted this time around was a cohesive record.
The first semblance of this effort can be noted in the album’s second track, “Get That Rhythm Right,” a song that proves vocalist Nic Offer’s malleable vocal aerobics are still as vibrant and prone to experimentalism as ever, even if the band’s electro-funk hybrid is a smidge staid. The album is littered with guest female vocals, including Teresa Eggers, Heartless Bastards’ Erika Wennerstrom and the amazingly kitschy (but spot-on) addition of Sonia Moore—famous for providing the “hey heys” on MC Hammer’s enormo-hit “2 Legit 2 Quit”—on “One Girl/One Boy.”
The exploration of new, more ambient avenues notwithstanding, dance-party poppers like “One Girl/One Boy” are clearly fueled by a snotty affinity for disco and driving, anthemic, early ‘90s R&B burners that are so fun to listen to it should be illegal.
Producer Jim Eno (of Spoon) captains a more unified musical terrain, which includes, ironically perhaps, a veritable horn o’ plenty of pulsing electronic manipulations and pop-oriented punk. Eno may have had an easier time attempting to corral an army of pieces of confetti to march a straight line as to try to confine !!!’s meandering muses.
That the band made a conscious effort to more closely hone Thr!!!er’s lyrical arcs while simultaneously expanding the sonic territory of its grooved-out oeuvre is interesting, again, in that there isn’t a whole lot of noticeable improvement, especially when taking into consideration a song like “Californiyeah.” With references to missing the sunshine, driving up and down the 101, I-5 and Highway 99, the big payoff is presumably meant to be the chorus, “California’s in my heart/but currently it’s torn apart/I’ll make it back there some day if I had my way.” The sentiment is nice, and with the band now dispersed throughout New York City, Sacramento and Portland, their longing for a more stable foundation is a forgivable thematic ideal.
“Fine Fine Fine” opens with a motorik drum beat that is eventually swallowed by a slithery bass line and hyper-catchy chorus that fashions the closest thing !!! has had to a new-wave rock tune since Louden Up Now’s more punkish tendencies. “Slyd,” though, is the album’s highlight, a ready-made dance-club scorcher steeped in heavy acid-house beats, shifty, warbling synth and a psychotropic melody interspersed with a female vocal sample that spirals and blooms in a swirling mess of noises and imagery. The track’s non-sequitur lyrics are essentially dancehall rehash, but, again, it doesn’t even matter. Songs like “Slyd” have cemented a legion of resigned toe-tappers to leave their inhibitions at the door and dance like nobody’s watching.
Whether the solidity the band endeavored to create is evident amongst the aural planes of Thr!!!er is debatable. Either way, it’s a monster of a dance-punk record, and a fine addition to the !!! canon.