Music: Strange Weather, Isn't It? by !!! * * * *
It is thought that there are about 1,000 Irish bands at present, writing their own material and regularly playing live. That's a lot of music for one small country.
Goodness knows how many bands are plying their trade globally, but one thing is certain -- coming up with that all-important band name has become trickier than ever. Just about every combination of words has been taken already.
When Nic Offer put his band together 14 years ago, he chose a name that no other band could possibly have. But then he had to explain that !!! was pronounced "chk chk chk", which trips off the tongue a little easier than "the band with the exclamation marks".
In the 10 years that have elapsed since the Brooklyn-based Californians released their self-titled debut, Offer and a floating cast have delivered a very fine line in dance-punk. Think Hot Chip meets The Rapture, only marginally less commercially minded. Unlike those bands, they have remained in the underground, an essential group to namecheck for anyone seeking hipster credentials.
It's difficult to say if this fourth album will find them enjoying greater recognition, but over the course of nine tracks, !!! have delivered their best set to date and attendees at the inaugural Body & Soul event earlier in the year got to hear the new material in all its glory. Sadly, drummer Jerry Fuchs, who worked on the album, would not get to hear the finished product, after being killed in a freak lift shaft accident last year.
Offer says his friend's death has informed some of the tracks, but that's not immediately apparent. What is clear is the band's new-found sense of purpose. If it sounds a little like LCD Soundsystem (no bad thing), that could just be because Eric Broucek -- the in-house engineer at LCD's label, DFA -- is producer here, and he's done an exceptional job.
An inventive collision of danceable beats, organic instruments and Offer's monochrome vocals, Strange Weather is a compelling listen from the start. Opener AM/FM gets proceedings off nicely, Even Judas Gave Jesus A Kiss, is as playful as its title suggests and Steady As The Sidewalk Cracks is peppered with striking sax notes.
Shannon Funchess of Light Asylum pops up here and there on vocal duty, and it's a shame she's not deployed more.
Incidentally, the all-pervasive power of Google does not extend to these Californians. Type "!!!" into the ubiquitous search engine and it is unable to retrieve a single document.
Burn it: AM/FM; Even Judas Gave Jesus A Kiss