!!! (Chk Chk Chk) are loudly surreal on As If

!!! (Chk Chk Chk) - As IfCalifornian sextuplet !!! last released an album in 2013, with the dance-imbued Thr!!!er. Since then, contemporary dance punk has been in steady decline, and the dance music landscape in general has changed considerably. Despite introducing us to bands like New Young Pony Club and The Rapture, the appeal of dance punk has faded. Few bands continue to fly the flag of the genre, and the wholesome, messy style that the movement brought about just doesn't cut it anymore. !!!, another contemporary dance punk pioneer, have, however, found a compromise in their new album As If.

Tongue in cheek in name, and bold in span, As If is everything modern dance music strives to be. Inherently funky, it’s difficult not to dance when tracks like “Every Little Bit Counts” and "Sick Ass Moon" are pounding through your speakers. The blend of jive guitars, plump percussion, and front man Nic Offer’s hip shaking soprano is more than enough to get you grooving down with your best/worst John Travolta Saturday Night Fever impression. Bleeding into a whole smorgasbord of genres, such as dance, pop, and electronica, !!!’s sound broadens beyond their origins as each track progresses.

Moving on from the raw, scatty pleasure that was enjoyed from listening to dance punk, !!! anchor a style that is doused in the dance pop influence of artists like LCD Soundsystem and TV On The Radio. Songs like “Bam City” — a track where Nic Offer speaks of the band’s travels across the globe, visiting places like Bilbao and Tokyo — and “Lucy Mongoosey” underscore the band’s concentration on pop, and highlight their transition from straddled guitars and disoriented beats, all without losing the charming !!! style. Their calculated, mesmeric sound is more hemmed back and subtle than their earlier work. Finding a line to tread between more explicit styles of songwriting and more delicate touches are key to what makes As If such a compelling listen.

It is a relief to see a band like !!! turn a new page and find a new way of doing things without losing their signature sound. Overshadowed by more successful niche genres, dance punk’s existence is a frail one. Rather than evoking a sound that’s too outdated to be enjoyed in a modern music environment, yet too recent to get nostalgic over, the balance struck in As If is testament to !!!’s experience in the music industry. “Ooo”, for instance, weighs up the chaotic rhythms of dance punk with the melodic, thoughtfulness of a pop song. !!!’s sound has developed rather than regressed, and that is As If’s biggest triumph.

Impossibly catchy, loudly surreal and both a little bit modern and nicely dated, !!!’s sixth studio album may be their most important. It’s sad that dance punk artists are having to move on, but it is undeniably for the best in the long run. !!! have managed to find a funky middle-ground with As If, an album that fits snuggly in-between nostalgia and modernity.

Release: 16th October 2015, Warp Records

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