It would be extremely tempting to suggest that anyone wishing to guess what the new !!! 'As If' might sound like should just check out 2013's 'Thr!!!er'. That would be both tempting and journalistically lazy, but also entirely accurate.
'Thr!!!er' found the phonetically troublesome New York unit setting up shop in the psycho-geographical terrain of Studio 54 during its most decadent period, co-opting the type of rhythmic repetitions and over-sexed energy of everyone from Walter Gibbons to Giorgio Moroder. 'As If' works that sweaty, hedonistic groove still further, going deeper and deeper into disco's ambiguously euphoric core. It's all elastic basslines, soulful accents, solid beats and retro electronic sequencer modulations; for those with sufficiently long memories, this is nothing especially new (ask your parents; or maybe your grandparents), but it's nonetheless audaciously, disgracefully !!!-ish.
One of the arresting things about !!! remains their capacity to sound ruthlessly honed and utterly reckless at the same time, thanks in part to the kind of lyrics that feel like they could have only come together at the end of some gargantuan all-nighter, but also because of a certain looseness to the arrangements. 'All U Writers' is a heads-down solid minimal jam of a track with gravelly Barry White vocals that hinges on a sense of incredulity that someone could mistake 'Wonderwall' for a Beatles track and consider Macca the best member of the band. Such humour is never far away, even if it's shrouded in either good-time moods or an in-jokes that are the exclusive preserve of the band-mates themselves; the dark 'Bam City' talks about how nice Bilbao is while on the Senegalese block party jam that follows ('Every Little Bit Counts') they say they've never been to Spain.
The album's highlight is the solid 'Freedom! '15', which takes female soul vocals and applies them liberally over a slowly-building monster cut with a live sound and irrepressible hands-in-the-air chorus, a vibe that the band worked effectively on 'Thr!!!er'. The album concludes with 'Till The Money Runs Out', documenting lovers on the run hopping from hotels to hotels, like Nicholas Cage and Laura Dern in 'Wild At Heart', but with a disco groove as the soundtrack instead of Elvis. The track also asks the question no-one else ever thought to ask: exactly who paints the pictures that hang in hotel rooms?
So long as you don't necessarily expect some drastic change of course from !!!, 'As If' won't disappoint. This is what happens when 'Thr!!!er' fades out and someone has the good sense to suggest that they keep the party going on, and on, and on, until no-one has the energy to dance any more. If it feels just a little patchy in places compared to its predecessor, it's hard not to be jerked into life by this band's approach to the dancefloor's dark bidding. Just don't over-think it.
Words: Mat Smith
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