By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
The music of !!! (pronounced chik-chik-chik) is harder to abide. This summer, when they played the cozy confines of the Knitting Factory — usually one of L.A.’s stiffer venues — the floor shook, the walls began to sweat, people moved their asses. But there was a problem. I liked the circling, overamplified clatter, but the music didn’t indicate long study of the newest hot jamz from Ibiza, or even an awareness of them. No, !!! are a nostalgia act. Their music doesn’t reference the full-body electric shock of today’s dance tracks, but a more innocent juke and sway from a time before the rhythm box took over rhythm — the multiracial swagger of Booker T & the MGs (the ’60s); the deep groove of the Meters (the ’70s); the abstract polyrhythms of NYC’s Liquid Liquid (the ’80s). There’s nothing inherently wrong with swiping from great sources, but great sources do not a great band make.
When I listened to the flipside of !!!’s latest single, “Intensifieder (SunRaCapellElectroShit Mix 03),” the depths of their dilettantism began to piss me off. First came Offer’s nasal choke of a voice, a clear cue that this music wouldn’t pass muster in a club. “Can you feel it?” he asked. I wondered. A muttering voice in the background tried to convince me: “Feel it. Intensify. He’s trying so hard.” Then Offer burped and made some farting noises with his lips. While it didn’t quite indicate that this was a piss-take on dance music, neither was it a sign of respect.
On the single’s A-side, Offer does a little doodle: “Doot-da-doot-doot-dooo,” he sings, “doot-da-doot-doot-doo-doo-doo-doo!” While we’re dancing and having a good time, !!! are twiddling their thumbs.
By comparison, the Rapture’s nose for rehabilitation is a wonder. While nothing on Echoes rises to the level of “House of Jealous Lovers” (which is included on the disc, positioned at the dead center of the album), it sports many one-two punches of recombinant pop that strike me less like mixed metaphors than sexy doses of genre whiplash.
Take this sequence: The second track, “Heaven,” churns like Gang of Four’s regimented post-punk, while giving a glimmer of a less martial influence, Queen. This plays out on track 3, “Open Your Heart,” which swoops and swishes like one of Freddie Mercury’s stadium-rock torch songs. The next track, “I Need Your Love,” returns to disco, only this time as four-on-the-floor, Donna Summer–style Eurodisco. (The titular similarity to Summer’s “I Feel Love” — disco’s Rosetta stone — is more than a coincidence.)
So, yes, the Rapture bring some decidedly hot shit. But I wonder: In the contest to become the funkiest white boys in town, do they need to pay fealty to the world of credible, underground rock? Or did Michael Jackson’s spiritual brethren — the Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears — take a clearer path to cultivating soul? The Rapture are funky, all right, but they ain’t no Justin Timberlake.
!!! | “Me and Giuliani Down by the School Yard (A True Story)” b/w “Intensifieder (SunRaCapellElectroShit Mix 03)” | (Touch and Go)
OUTHUD | S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D. | (Kranky)
THE RAPTURE | Echoes | (DFA/Strummer/Universal)