Strange Weather, Isn’t It?
I will travel far and wide to see !!!, a band named for three staccato sounds (“chk chk chk” is the preferred pronunciation, though you can also say “pow pow pow” or “bang bang bang” to a fellow fan if so inclined). In the past five years, I’ve seen them at least as many times. From a slightly awkward but riotously fun gymnasium show in Chicago to a slam dancing mess at Boston’s Paradise, I’ve been there.
I’ve seen related side projects and new ventures from Out Hud to Free Blood to LCD Soundsystem, and loved every minute of madness each show brought to my life. But every time I dance my ass off with the expansive !!! crew, I do it alone. This is distressing. Do I really not know anyone else who wants to dance the Nic Offer, a twist-meets-disco gyration named for the band’s lead singer? I only know one person who even has a name for the main man’s dance. I guess that’s how it goes when you obsessively listen to slightly obscure dance rock. Unless you have Coachella fanatic friends, you go it alone.
Strange Weather, Isn’t It?, the band’s third full-length effort following the preposterously manic nine-minute single “Me and Giuliani Down By The Schoolyard (A True Story)” and a split EP of Magnetic Fields/Nate Dogg covers, is a solid if slightly subdued release for a six-plus-member group known for switching instruments between every song at live shows. Several slower psychedelic tracks fill the nine-track album, and unlike previous efforts which relied on eight-minute dance jams, none of these songs clock in over six minutes. Vocalist Shannon Funchess, seemingly the only woman to stick around the !!! ranks very long, is officially included on the album after touring with the band for the last several years.
Strange Weather, Isn’t It? sounds like an amalgam of new work and older tracks left off of other albums. Opening track “AM/FM” captures the sound of a live performance with Funchess’ breathy vocals mixed with Offer’s half-spoken chants about how “you can change the station, but there just ain’t no replacement.” An oft-used !!! lyrical formula, it also discusses the merits of dance music (and in this case radio DJs and frequencies) in detail. “The Most Certain Sure,” with lyrics about lessons not learned, could have been cut from sophomore release Louden Up Now and reworked in the interim. “Steady as the Sidewalk Cracks” begins with an '80s pop riff reminiscent of Wham! and segues seamlessly into a classic !!! jam that urges you, “Don’t you ever look back/You’ve got to trust the music.”
In the past years, as my love for them and their fame has grown, !!! has experienced tragedy in their ranks; two band members have died in bizarre, tragic accidents involving elevator shafts and bike-car collisions. As with any sizable lineup, shifts within the ranks are bound to occur, but I sometimes worry so many changes will permanently destabilize an already slightly chaotic collective.
!!! makes a party for your stereo, for your life, and I say, make that party yours. Own it.