Published Aug 26, 2019They've been around since the '90s, but !!! (Chk Chk Chk) have never wavered in their bombastic, irreverent spirit. The veteran New York musicians, led by Nic Offer, released their last album, Shake the Shudder, a disco-laden oath to dance as rebellion, in 2017. On Wallop, the band oscillate between grimy, audacious bangers and bright yet introspective tracks, to frequently pleasing results.
The bangers vary in their effectiveness. On "Off the Grid," the beat races, bass thunders and synth effects snap and pop with this taunting condemnation of privilege and ignorance: "Everybody's trying to say where they hid / When it stopped being sunny / And the shit got out of control." However, "Rhythm of the Gravity" is noncommittal to the point of anarchy, combining hard-hitting drums and synthetic horns with lyrics like "The dolphin squeak / What of it."
Wallop's better moments happen to be on the lighter tracks, which maintain a certain focus. "Slow Motion" blends melancholic harmonies and spoken-word interludes over tambourine slaps and handclaps. The final revelation goes, "And when I look back on this moment… What am I gonna say I was a total fucking idiot about then?" Offer confronts the exploitation of independent artists on "Serbia Drums," accompanied by glittering synths, lively electric guitars and drummer Chris Egan's robust percussion. "This is the Door," Wallop's climactic track, is potent retro dance music over which singer Meah Pace gives a feel-good performance. On the outro, she and Offer repeat the song title, exuding ecstasy in the face of fear.
Occasionally on Wallop, !!! sound either too world-weary or too committed to being incendiary to relay ideas relevant to listeners. But at their best, the band maintain their convictions about privilege, power and culture and present them as defiant, monumental tracks. (Warp)