Words by : Chris Pacifico
Dance music and punk rock have always gone together like peanut butter and jelly. The reggae movement of the early '60s played a pivotal role in punk's emergence in the '70s, which became more flagrant with the early ska pioneers such as The Specials and Madness. But the music emitted from the third wave ska revival of the '90s was as enjoyable as having a pipe wrench dropped on your face. Of course Gang of Four was the band most closely associated with the term "dance punk" due to their 1979 classic debut Entertainment! before disbanding in 1984. But when they re-formed and started touring in 2004, it seemed as if a whole slew of artists who were cut from the same cloth started emerging. Sure, Franz Ferdinand was catchy and of course Bloc Party had a sense of broody depth, but following that, all the record labels and music media began rushing over themselves to sign and hype up any artists with any resemblance to the genre. And before the masses had a chance to figure out who was who, music hit one of those patches where everything sounds the same. In the case of this genre, it's the drummers high-hat making the same tepid "tss-tss" sound while bland music is at the helm of a stuffy-voiced lead singer.
!!! by Dennis Kleiman
Then you have !!!, molded from a clay all their own.
What? You've never heard of them? Or perhaps you've heard of them but never heard their name pronounced? It's mostly pronounced as "chk chk chk." The name originated from the "clicking" sounds the Bushmen made with their tongues in the cult film/cultural farce The Gods Must Be Crazy. Whenever the Bushmen would speak their language, their words would be translated in English within the subtitles, but when they clicked, the subtitles would read "!!!" "Basically, it's three of the same percussive syllables," states !!!'s outgoing front man Nic Offer. "It can be oooh oooh oooh, ah, ah, ah, ugh ugh ugh." But for most intents and purposes, they're chk chk chk, a name that Offer claims their record label, Touch and Go, had "tricked" them into. Spin magazine has even dubbed them as the "hardest band name to Google."
!!! by Rob Walbers
!!! plays a groovy, wobbly, bass-infused Talking Heads circa Remain in Light brand of dance punk. An eight-man ensemble, !!! infuses freewheeling horn textures, pulsating tempos and Afrobeat flows, haphazard synthesizers, strummy guitars, Offer's smarmy singing, and a thick glob of broody funk, which serves as the icing on the cake. It's like nothing else out there.
Their live shows leave many a concertgoer's legs brittle and torsos sore from all the dancing and gyrating that they are known to induce. Offer is infamous for whipping crowds into a frenzy and sometimes eggs them on to heckle him. He even injured his knee one year at the All Tomorrows Parties festival from dancing so hard. "I feel like shows are more fun when you feel involved and you somehow feel a part of it," he explains. "It's a very touchy thing, and I don't know exactly how it works. We try to connect with the people, and when the audience is feeding off of us, we feed off of them."
!!! by Christie Harrison
!!! was formed in Sacramento in 1996 before relocating to New York City. In 2000 their self-titled debut was released on GSL, which was followed by touring and more touring. But it was in 2004 upon the release of Louden Up Now (Touch and Go) when !!! established themselves as a force to be reckoned with, thanks to gems like the acid-tech house banger "Pardon My Freedom" and the flamenco-infused "Hello? Is This Thing On?" According to Offer, both of these tracks revolve around the issues of how a different and more solid rapport can be reached among society. "There's not enough pure communication between people. People don't just say what they naturally feel, and I feel like the whole world's problems, be they political, emotional, or personal, would be a whole lot better if people would say more of what they feel." Obviously Offer has never seen a single episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm... or perhaps he has.