While most of the other bands lumped in with the new "dance-punk" movement (Radio 4, The Rapture, et al.) meld New Order grooves and Joy Division gloom with Gang of Four's slash-and-burn six-string attack, !!! (which stands for three percussive sounds, usually pronounced as "Chik-Chik-Chik," "Pow-Pow-Pow," or "We Are Way Too Fucking Clever for Our Own Good") mines the early-'80s New York club scene that spawned such little-known but legendary bands as Liquid Liquid (whose "Cavern" was the basis for Grandmaster Flash's "White Lines (Don't Do It)") and ESG (as well as the Tom Tom Club).
At nine members deep, this group of multi-instrumentalists forgoes the kitschy theatrics of the current electroclash movement, with a slovenly fashion sense and (apparent) taste for chemicals that recalls Happy Mondays, the legendarily hapless rave-rock burnouts who are probably !!!'s most obvious antecedent. Live, they're a whirling dervish: extending grooves to the breaking point; switching instruments midstream; mixing live horns, percussion, guitar, and everything but the proverbial kitchen sink into marathon party anthems as frontman Nic Offer throws down special-ed scatting and stoner blabbermouth nonsense as stupidly sublime as Mick Jagger's immortal "some Puerto Rican girls that's just DYYYAN to MEEETCHA" rap on the Stones' disco classic "Miss You."
Their debut album, !!!, on the experimental indie Gold Sound Laboratories label, generated enough buzz to garner them a shot at the greener pastures of Touch & Go records, although it fell a bit short of sister band Out Hud's (with which !!! shares three members) live-action dub masterpiece S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D.
While a proper full-length is still forthcoming, the band recently released this epic single to much acclaim across the pond. Of course, this isn't your average single. Two songs strong, and nearly 20 minutes long, "Me and Giuliani..." is the most ambitious thing the band has ever done, and the most fully realized.
Not to disagree with Public Enemy, but in this case the a-side definitely wins again. The title track, all nine minutes and three seconds of it, represents a new artistic high for the band. The track starts out as fairly standard-issue !!!, all low-end groove and Nile Rodgers guitar chop, with Offer offering such poetical insights as "When I see you/ It doesn't really matter/ 'Cause it won't make no sense/ To all those mad, mad hatters." Food for thought, people.
However lyrically dim, !!! have the one thing that any great dance act needs: a short attention span. They simply can't stop messing around with the mix, adding horn stabs and discordant-echo guitar effects for the sheer hell of it.
It's good so far, but at the four-minute mark an ominous bass stalks the perimeter, a chiming guitar riff launches off into space, a (gasp!) honest-to-goodness vocal melody grabs you by the heart, and suddenly this becomes the great U2/disco synthesis that the Irish legends couldn't manage to pull off with their ill-fated misstep Pop.
After a brief segue back in to a minimal bass throb, this single's crowning glory kicks in (just in time for the seven-minute itch): cascading sheets of echoing, clean guitar, bouncing off each other like light off a broken mirror ball. Then, just as soon as it came, it's gone, and we're stranded with nothing more to our names than a stomp-and-clap hockey-arena beat ripped off from Gary Glitter, and some falsetto "doo do doo do doo doos."
Sure, it's only one song and the b-side (a dull electroclash remix that features the standard Tourettic glitch and '80s camp that are the hallmark of that bankrupt genre) is just filler but I picked up mine for $4.99 and haven't regretted it in the least. Like so many great singles of the past, this is the sound of a good band getting great. Don't miss the moment.