Review Summary: The world's most unsearchable band release their fourth LP and have trouble searching for their new sound
If you've ever tried, you'll know how difficult it is to actually search for !!!. The electronic-rock band who's name is generally taken to be pronounced 'ChkChkChk', have long since accepted this as both a fun quirk, and an annoying hindrance. Regardless of that, they're still making music, and Strange Weather, Isn't It? is their fourth full length album on Warp records. Bizarrely though, the band seem to have lost themselves as well. No real progression from the fantastic Myth Takes seems evident, in fact the band have regressed if anything, crawling up into their Louden up Now state of affairs, funky basslines, untidy synthesizers and seedy whispered New York vocals.
The band's last album, Myth Takes was in many ways the high watermark of the new breed of indie-dance music known as 'Dance-Punk', it's pulsating rhythms and laconic whispered vocals complimented perfectly with feedback driven synthesizers, which harked back to the good old days of synth-pop. That all changed in a tragic twist of circumstances, as the drummer and literal backbone of the band Jerry Fuchs plunged down an elevator shaft to his untimely death. The loss obviously effected the band deeply, not just on a musical level, but a personal one too. In many ways Strange Weather should be their catharsis of this truly horrific event, sad, brooding and utterly hate driven, aspects of music any fan of the band would expect and forgive of them considering the circumstances. Yet if anything the record bops along with a new found furious intensity the band hadn't uncovered before.
Is this sound one of a band ignoring events surrounding to it? Or is it, as Ultravox said, just dancing with tears in your eyes? Throughout, !!! don't seem to get overly sentimental or even slower, the intensity builds and crumbles under waves of glittering arpeggio guitars and silky smooth drum and bass. Lead single from the album AM/FM is a funky disco number which introduces a saw-tooth wave, the type of which !!! soon start using, and in some ways overusing a bit. But it's fine, danceable and fun really, all elements which you would not expect from the band now.
The album feels in many ways though as if it's trying to keep itself busy, forever chanting and dancing around the band's internal fire, which never gets extinguished. Though this may seem odd, the album is shorter than all of the other previous releases (EP's an exception), a fact which is startling when you consider how long it seems to take to listen to the record. It's not boring but then again it's not hugely captivating, in the way that LCD Soundsystem's Sound of Silver was by recalling rock and pop classics, !!! unsuccessfully attempt to recapture some music memories, memories of Kraftwerk, Human League and Michael Jackson.
It's just clear to see from the off that !!! seem content to pluc a whacky song title ("Jamie, My Intentions Are Bass") seemingly from mid-air, implement a standard rolling rhythm and thumping bass riff and whisper - rap about seedy sexual liaisons over it. Indeed, these were qualities that made Myth Takes so excellent, it's seeming robotic inception now seems cold, lifeless and quite shallow indeed.
It's sad really, the band's talent is overwhelming and their songwriting is extremely good too. All too often on Strange Weather they seem to get lost up in rudderless and unconvincing instrumental sections - elements of Myth Takes greatness appear briefly in Wannagain Wannagain (the Yadnus-alike of the album) and Even Judas Gave Jesus A Kiss, a track which prides itself on style over substance. The high points are few and between though, and leave the listener craving the bands excellent previous album