And you thought it was hard to do a web search for ‘Tennis‘ or ‘Fishing‘. !!! remain one of those few bands where pronouncing their name right doesn’t really seem to matter, because as soon as they start playing on a stereo somewhere, you immediately know who you’re listening to. OK, not entirely true; I once listened to half of one of this group’s albums and wondered how I hadn’t heard this LCD Soundsystem record before, but if you’re going to make loose comparisons, that’s a pretty decent one to make. This also happened to be on vinyl, which I lifted from my local record store back when I fancied myself an amateur criminal, primarily because I liked the album art. Like LCD, !!! happened upon the sound of now (or ‘then’, if you want to be specific) simply by doing what they loved rather than what they thought would be cool. They liked taking drugs, sex and jamming out eight minute songs called ‘Bend Over Beethoven’. It was somewhere in between all of this that they got kind of popular, which I imagine weirded them out to no end. But if you don’t want the kids spreading your name around the MySpace in 2001, there’s one surefire way to make life difficult; create a name comprised entirely of punctuation marks.
The thing I like about !!! among the many things I like about them is that they’re actually based all over America. The band has members who live in New York City, Sacramento and Portland, which really proves that the power of great music can pull together in incredibly diverse range of people. I remember thinking how out-there our own Collarbones were for starting an interstate group last year, but that’s nothing on this nightmare of organisation. Because they’re relatively free-flowing and, like LCD, came together with players who were already in other groups, !!! always had that very spontaneous kind of vibe to them. Where The Rapture sat more towards the polished end of the punk-funk spectrum – especially by the time they got onto Pieces Of The People We Love – !!! are more messy. The bass lines are tight, yes, and the beats hit crisply where they’re supposed to, but everything else about it sounds like it was done in less than two takes. Structurally, it’s got the same kind of call and response that was really popular a few years earlier with Jet’s ‘Are You Gonna Be My Girl?’; three of four stanzas of rambling followed by an explosion of sound, which in this case is a descending bass line, a phased-out vocal and a considerable amount of Non-Essential Percussion.
So what is ‘Must Be The Moon’ about? Like all good music from five years ago or fifty years ago, it’s about trying to get laid and blaming something else for your ulterior motives. That’s not explicitly make clear in Nic Offer’s sexy-man rapping, in which he self-referentially worries that he’s starting to sound like a rapper before letting some guitars take over. But it’s all there in those amazing mid-80s funk-rock choruses, where layers of guitars and keyboard effects compound upon one another to update the sound with excellent production and too many instruments. But it’s really seductive in a way, the fact that Offer can’t really sing that well and the rhythm section is the focal point of it all. It brings back the live element that always made !!! the ones to watch at festivals; you never really knew what you were going to be in for. Though ‘Must Be The Moon’ is perhaps one of their most straight-ahead, radio-friendly singles, it’s still delightfully weird in the same way Yeasayer (used to be) weird. Which is great, because if you told me you were starting a five to eight piece dance-funk band tomorrow, chances are I would not give you any money. Thankfully, over a decade ago someone did, and !!! are still a thing. Even if that thing is infuriatingly difficult to pronounce.
!!! (Chk Chk Chk) – ‘Must Be The Moon’