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Arts and Entertainment

CD Review: !!!'s 'Myth Takes' - No Mistakes Here

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Artist: !!!
Title: Myth Takes
Release Date: 3/4/07
Label: Warp Records
!!!'s MySpace
!!!'s Website

If, like me, you’ve been fortunate enough to see a live !!! show, then you’ll know that their recordings are just snapshots in time, a place for the band to step off on extended sweat-inducing punk funk jams. Enough about their bizarre name, call them chkchkchk, uhuhuh, whatever. The band is comprised of Mario Andreoni (guitar), Dan Gorman (horns/percussion/keys), Nic Offer (vocals), Tyler Pope (guitar/various electronic devices), John Pugh (drums/vocals), Justin Van Der Volgen (bass/sound) and Allan Wilson (horns/percussion/keys) - Myth Takes is their third full-length album. The band has been around since 1995, touring the US and Europe but they got a huge amount of exposure in 2006 by being the opening band for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Fortunately, very little of what the Peppers have become has rubbed off on !!!.

Myth Takes opens with the spacious title track that has an odd familiarity, like a galloping rocker version of Ennio Morricone’s theme to the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly with the whispered intensity one is familiar with in !!! albums.

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The explosive entry into ‘All My Heroes Are Weirdos,’ a wall of percussion, is !!!’s trademark but this is probably the last look at what was ‘typical’ in !!! albums. It seems like this tune is sung by the drummer, John Pugh, who has been doing more vocals for the group lately [I can’t be sure since the promo copy I have doesn’t have any credits info at all].

‘Must Be The Moon’ might be the best track on the album. A narrative of an evening’s romantic conquest features a driving beat, and a rap-like delivery in the first half. Nic Ofner even makes fun of the lyrics, pointing out that “this is starting to sound like a rap.” The chorus is where you really start to notice how this is a very different !!! album – there are backing vocals, and they aren’t yelling/screaming, they’re sung. With two minutes to go, some incredible depth-charge electronics are added to the backbeat, with Justin Van Der Volgen’s lyrical and heavy duty funked up bassline. You may have heard Van Der Volgen in the !!!-related band, Out Hud, but !!! is where he really shines – he’s the best (damn) bass player I’ve seen in years and definitely the best player in this whole punk-disco scene. His basslines are what define the signature tracks on this record and all of !!!’s releases.

'A New Name' is the most atmospheric song on the record, which provides a nice break between the hard-driving 'Must Be the Moon' and the single 'Heart of Hearts' which is up next.

'Heart of Hearts' is another pounding tune, featuring more electronics and, remarkably, female backing vocals, making it a truly standout track. It's just not as complex as 'Moon' which makes it more suitable as a single I suppose. Still it's a very good tune - just in my mind, playing a close second to 'Must Be the Moon.' Very thumpy, and relentless, with Ofner trading vocals with the unnamed female vocalist - this is dark neo-disco tune, emblematic of the best that this genre has to offer.

'Sweet Life' is subdued, earnestly sung song, vocals over layers of electronic and organic rhythms, drums, and syncopated guitars, with truly experimental breaks - but it kind of just a little bit feels like filler to me.

What sounds like a stomping, southern rock offering, complete with harmonica-effected guitars, 'Yadnus' soon goes off in another direction, breaking down just to rhythm and vocals, the lyrics going from 'Fixing to hit ya' to 'Fixing to kiss ya' - a full transformation.

Van Der Volgen's bass is the central feature of the 8 minute groovefest 'Bend Over Beethoven' - it initiates all movement and evolution in jam that I'm sure was cut short by about 45 minutes, and damn it if the song title isn't funny.

Oh yeah, and if there had been something characteristic about !!! albums - it was their horn section! When's the last time you heard horns in conjunction with 'punk'? Fishbone? Well !!! brought it all back with their first couple albums but 'Break In Case of Anything' is the one track on Myth Takes that has some horn blasts. It's enough to make me nostalgic but enough other cool stuff was unloaded on me that I didn't even notice the absence of horns until they came back. Great rhythms and interesting usage of some female vocals make this a short (for !!!) and interesting tune.

Myth Takes closes with 'Infinifold,' almost a piano reverie with some neat atmospherics. Not what I was expecting but I'm assuming that !!! was letting us down easy after the high-energy hijinks that brought us to the terminus.

!!! has yet to produce an effort that could be labeled sophomoric. Perhaps it's their honesty and commitment to creating the hardest grooves heard in decades or their lack of fear in bringing new things to the table. Whatever the reason, this is a CD I will keep on heavy rotation while I eagerly await an email from Pollstar announcing !!!'s US tour.

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[Make sure you see them at Coachella]