!!! - As If 2LP
The funky, post-punky, always danceable !!! show no signs of slowing down on their sixth album, As If. If anything, they keep getting better with each release. Their last record, Thr!!!er, lived up to its title and this record is all-thriller, no-filler too, jammed with songs that almost dare the listener not to dance. Recorded and produced by the band with help from James Ford, Jim Eno, Ewan Pearson, Chris Coady, and Chris Woodhouse, and culled from an intense session of songwriting done by driving force Nic Offer and bassist Rafael Cohen, the album was recorded in studios around America. Despite the various locales and collaborators involved, the album is focused and tight as it deals out pounding grooves and thundering basslines. Add in wire-tight guitar, wobbling old synths, and Offer's unhinged vocals and it's vintage !!! with a little extra energy added. Song after song hits like a punch, sometimes a knockout blow (the wall-shaking "Freedom! '15" or the blindingly bright pop song "Every Little Bit Counts"), sometimes a sneaky slap (the low-key "Funk [I Got This]" or the slinky, nocturnal dreamer "Sick Ass Moon"), and occasionally just a weird, drunken master attack (the oddball disco freakout "I Feel So Free [Citation Needed]") or a clinch (the smoothly sleek R&B ballad "Lucy Mongoosey"). No matter the technique involved, by the time the album is over, listeners will be picking themselves up off the canvas, not covered with bruises, but maybe winded and with sore feet from all the dancing. By this point in a band's career, it would be expected, almost accepted, if they started to calcify and just crank out the same record over and over. !!! have yet to reach that point, not even close. There's enough vigorous energy pulsing through the grooves to make As If come fully to life, enough imagination in the arrangements to always keep people guessing, and hooks huge enough to capture anyone within the general vicinity. Thr!!!er felt like it might have been !!!'s peak achievement; As If makes the case that they may only be getting started.