Have you seen that new commercial on TV where shit like stray basketballs and clumsy bicyclists and spurts of water from hoses start hitting the sides of a car? All those random thumps start speeding up and blurring together until they coalesce into a funky, polyrhythmic symphony of percussion. It's a fucking annoying commercial, and Louden Up Now -- the long-awaited, sophomore full-length from New York's !!! (pronounced "chick, chick, chick") -- sounds just like it. Not to say that the album sucks: "Me and Giuliani Down by the School Yard," reprised from last year's single of the same name, is the apex of !!!'s seven-year tenure as America's disco-punk flagship. Over soap-slathered bass lines, throttled trumpet, and guitars that ping and careen like lasers fired into a roomful of mirrors, singer Nic Offer runs off at the mouth about Gotham's ex-mayor and his repressive, antidancing policies. Sound a little too Footloosefor you? Just wait until Offer starts whispering the chorus to Kenny Loggins' theme song in a sultry sotto voce -- a stroke of unmitigated, if retarded, genius.
The rest of the songs, though a huge improvement over the group's half-assed, Y2K debut, just kind of coast along in "Giuliani"'s wake. "Pardon My Freedom" is Trent Reznor gone calypso, while "Dear Can" resembles a one-chord, three-second snippet of a Prince song skipping in an infinite loop. In fact, the disc's '80s references are as peripheral as they are glaringly weird: Tom Tom Club and Big Audio Dynamite have joined the legendary avant-funk ensemble Liquid Liquid as polestars in !!!'s firmament. So what's Louden Up's low point, you ask? Let's just say that when the opening beats of "Shit Scheisse Merde Pt. 1" kick through your speakers, you'll be expecting the rest of the Miami Sound Machine to follow at any moment. Still, the record as a whole is way more compelling and memorable than just about any car commercial on the air today. -- Jason Heller
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