[8 June 2004]
Dancepunkers !!! have gone quite far on a clever band name, and one of the best song titles in recent memory. “Me and Giuliani Down By the School Yard (A True Story)” gave the indie rock world a song they could dance to while maintaining a smirk. The breakout single simultaneously mocked coolness while re-establishing the need for skills on the dancefloor. !!!‘s self-titled album kept the beat up for the full-length. Each track was heavy on groove, light on lyrical content, and necessarily high in any hipster’s playlist. The follow-up, Louden Up Now maintains the band’s feel for groove, but it reveals the group is dancing in place.
The centerpiece of the album, of course, is “Me and Giuliani”. This song deserves the attention it’s gotten—the lyrics are fun and you will dance to it. The politics are more clever than cutting, but don’t worry about it—this song is for bootyshaking [actual exclamation mark here]. If you can resist the nine minutes of punky funk, you can resist the closing line reference to Kevin Bacon’s masterpiece: “Everybody cut footloose.” On this track !!! sounds hip, fun, and musical, with just a touch of social consciousness thrown in. Unfortunately, the group doesn’t hold it together throughout the course of Louden Up Now.
The disc opens promisingly. “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Karazzee” has the necessary beat, attitude, and orthography to be a party hit. It’s got what we expect from !!!, strong bass and drum parts, and well used guitars. The philosophy’s simple—dance and be happy—and sets the tone for the revelry that this group wants to bring. As long as that’s the tone, !!! is fine, but the group starts to stumble on its next track. “Pardon My Freedom” wears the guise of a free-speech protest song, but it actually functions as a puerile joke along the lines of, “Oops, did I say @$%&?” Using swearing to prove a point about what it’s okay to says last sounded good when George Carlin got on a roll. I’d take the music in a club any day, but !!! could drop the silly vocal line.
The offense fetish continues throughout the album, with three versions of the trilingual-poop-synonym-song: “Shit Scheisse Merde” (parts one and two, plus an instrumental version of part one make up over one-fourth of the CD’s running time). The first version of this song has little going for it musically or lyrically. The drumming’s only steady here, and while the bass line is catchy, it’s not enough of a hook to keep audience interest for the full-length of the song. When !!! refers to George Bush and Tony Blair on this track, it sounds nonsensical. The famous Giuliani allusion (to the former New York City mayor) sounds playful in an inspired song, but this political moment comes off as posturing. !!! should know by now that people want to dance, not pose [another exclamation mark here]. Part Two of the song carries on the joke from “Pardon My Freedom”, but the synth and bass are more interesting here. If you can ignore the mumbled lyrics, then you’ll probably be okay. The edition of the song is the oddest; it’s hard to understand why the group would provide a remixed instrumental version of a song with a dull backing track.
The album’s not fully flawed, however. “Theme from Space Island” sounds a bit like a musical joke, with its bouncy piano and tom-heavy drumming, but it follows “Me and Giuliani” nicely by adding a new sound to Louden Up Now without losing the party vibe they’ve built up. “Dear Can” has a nice guitar part and a creative synth line that carries the song. “Hello? Is This Thing On?” has sharp lyrics and a good hook. The drums ride the cymbals and keep the beat light and quick. The production on this track makes it stand out as an example of how good !!! can sound. That’s part of the problem, though, with Louden Up Now: it’s frustrating to listen to a band that can sound so good at times throw away such ridiculous music. While the album certainly has cuts worth hearing, it’s just not a satisfying listen.