!!!: Louden Up Now

Louden Up Now
Touch & Go

Why are so few people name-checking bleedin'-obvious Madchester rather than really-bleedin'-obvious post-punk when it comes to 2004's dance-rock mafia? Rock critic Michaelangelo Matos has already pegged the Rapture's Echoes as an American cousin to Primal Scream's Screamadelica, and now !!! release a debut that could be a Happy Mondays tribute album. Of course, Williamsburg coke is a much different paradigm scene drug than Manchester ecstasy, so Echoes is fraught with a dread that was banished from the blissed-out Screamadelica. And almost 20 years of rave culture have put a premium on endless groove, meaning !!! tracks are closer to Hacienda house than short, sharp ditties like the Mondays' "Kinky Afro." But the basic engines driving both bands are remarkably similar: Louche hippies merge fatback funk with p-punk spikiness, topped off with lead singers prone to goofy affectations, nasal sneers, and drug-addled doggerel.

Of course, the Mondays' Ryder wasn't faking the druggy part, and !!! are too fond of knowingly dumb lines like "Hey Mr. President, suck my fuckin' dick" (from "Pardon My Freedom"). But when they follow such nonsense with the funkiest steel drum groove since Prince's "New Position," you realize that rhythm section is the lead voice on Louden Up Now. !!! can burn an on-the-one as good as any white boys who've tied funk's locomotion to rock's runaway train.

Of course, post-punk and Madchester also engaged with the dance music of their day. Yet every sonic reference point on Louden Up Now has a 1988 sell-by date, making me wonder if a true avant-funk update shouldn't be influenced by something like dancehall or garage by now. And didn't post-punk and Madchester risk becoming fatuous in order to connect with their audience, with Madchester blowing self-aggrandizement to Cinemascope proportions and post-punk daring to really say something about politics/society/the cost of cheese in Clapham? Meanwhile, !!! have a twerpy lead singer who can't remove eyes from navel long enough to make his "political" interjections read as anything other than gags before trailing off into the mumbles that make up the rest of the lyrics. The result is the worst kind of armchair leftist solipsism fused with stoner giggles and cozy nostalgia. Killer drum sound, though.

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