New York City’s venerable dance-punk masters, !!! (Chk Chk Chk), released their newest album, Shake The Shudder, last month. Produced by the band with help from longtime collaborator Patrick Ford (Tanlines, Richard Hell), Shake the Shudder finds the band pushing their sonic and emotional boundaries while remaining grounded in their unique form of funk punk. This summer the band is back out on road in support of the new record, and on Thursday, June 29, they will play The Olympic here in Boise. They will be joined by Foul Weather. Tickets are only $13 and can be purchased here.
Thematically, Shake the Shudder, reflects the psyche of a band still grappling with the turmoil of everyday life, but from the perspective and wisdom that only 20 years on the road can give. While in their halcyon days, they could be content with a clever quip and a snarl, here they’ve opted for a more vulnerable approach, offering up some of their more emotionally raw moments like album standout “Throw Yourself in the River” or closer “R Rated Pictures”. Instead of pointing a finger outwards, they’ve turned their gaze inwards to find answers to questions posed by a turbulent world. They prescribe a salve to the mounting regret that aging can bring with “Dancing is the Best Revenge”, or find an anchor in friendship amidst a rudderless reality in “Five Companies”, and struggle with the blurry lines of a failing relationship in “Our Love (U Can Get)”.
The seeds of the album began as they always do with !!!…with ridiculously long, fevered jams. Starting in the sweaty confines of a practice space in Barcelona, they made lo-fi recordings of every moment playing together, even capturing the electrifying energy of their legendary live show at a month-long residency at Union Pool. After months of woodshedding and refining their deep grooves, they returned to their NYC studio, Taaffe Palace, where lead singer Nic Offer poured over the hours and hours of blast beats and funk licks generated by the rhythm section of drummer Paul Quattrone and guitarist Mario Andreoni and slowly began constructing what would become the thumping spine of the album. Keeping in the spirit of their DGAF punk roots, the band embraced the attitude of “there’s no such thing as a bad synth” with knob twiddling specialist Dan “Gorman” Gorman transforming the noisy squelches of a broken radio-shack keyboard into the dark and catchy riffs that fill songs like “Throttle Service” and “NRGQ”. They even stretch the traditional concept of a band by writing and working closely with outside collaborators and featured artists Lea Lea, Meah Pace, Nicole Fayu, Cameron Mesirow and Molly Schnick. You can even find multi-instrumentalist Rafael Cohen’s 4 year old daughter as the featured vocalist on the slinky bop of “What R U Up 2day”.
As the songs began to take shape in the early winter of 2016, the anxieties and darkness of the political climate in the U.S. began to seep its way into the lyrics and productions. Wanting to capture this newfound well of emotional intensity, the band stripped the tracks back to their bare essentials and returned to the studio one last time with engineer Chris Tabron (Chvrches, Beyonce, The Strokes), where they recorded 17 songs in 4 days. Exhausted, but racing to meet their labels deadline, they tapped dance luminaries, Phil Moffa and Joakim, as well as U.K. engineer Matt Wiggins (Lorde, Holy Fuck, Glass Animals), to mix the tracks for the dance-floor, whether it’s the main room of Berghain, or the spring coils of a lumpy mattress.
And so we are left with Shake the Shudder. A document of a band practicing disco Hansei, the Japanese philosophy of continually seeking room for growth, learning, and improvement. Best summed up in the mantra of funk banger “Things Get Hard”, Nic Offer intones that he’s Giving the best/Giving the best of what I have. Older and wiser but still with the hearts of young punks, !!! figure out life by doing what they do best; banging out sick grooves that make us want to dance and face the world again.