Me And Guiliani Down By The Schoolyard (A True Story) ep
It’s January 2004 and GAK and I are working on a review website “Dirty Monkey Bugspray Fun”, and we’re trying to compile a “best of 2003″ list. There was some cross-over, but not all that much. What was evident, though, was that the absolutely monolithic 9-minute “Me and Guiliani…” was far and away the best song of the year. Released on an ep from the then-obscure - but quickly growing in notoriety - !!! (”Chk Chk Chk”) it’s a deeply grooving track that combines indie rock with vintage disco, dipping its feet into punk and psychedelic. It’s a full-body experience - ears, mind, head, feet, butt - it’s a powerhouse track that perks you up and gets you moving at 126bpm (apparently the lyrics are quotes from Footloose). It’s backed with “Intensifieder (Sunracapellectrohshit Mix 03)”, a perhaps less engaging track, but also clocking in at over nine minutes, it lives up to its name, growing, intensifying over it’s length, gradually building over its repetitiveness. Me and Guiliani… broke !!! (”Chk Chk Chk, or any other 3 repetitive sounds - Pow Pow Pow, Unh Unh Unh, etc” - named after the subtitles on The Gods Must Be Crazy where the native language clicks or pops would be written as “!!!”) out from their dance club scene in California and wide across the globe as leaders in the wave of indie dance music.
Louden Up Now
Their 2004 full release was an exciting prospect. The ep, having delivered two massive tracks, led expectations to believe Louden Up Now would be more of the same. Although the average length of the 10 tracks is about 5 1/2 minutes - ranging from a scant 1:19 and 2:31 to 7:33 and a replay of “Me And Guiliani…” - few of the tracks delivered upon the promise the ep made. My initial reaction, especially by the time the six/seventh track played (the inane 2-part “Shit/Schiesse/Merde” with the final track being an instrumental version) was that the band should stick to releasing two-song eps. The well intending but banal “Pardon My Freedom” is tedious while “Dear Can” is empty sounding (”I know you want more”… yes, this song needs more), and aside from “Me and Guiliani..”
only the opening track “When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Karazzee” even hints at delivering upon expectations. I was almost ready to write !!! off as a one-hit wonder after this. Certainly there was little, if any reason to hang onto the album.
Take Ecstasy With Me ep
But in 2005, !!! returned with another 2-song ep, surprisingly enough both cover songs. The title track, a near-8-minute re-interpretation of the great Magnetic Fields’ track, which somehow expanded its spaciness while also bumping up its dance floor effectiveness, the band citing that studying Stephin Merritt’s song structure inspired them to reinterpret how they look at making music. !!! “Ecstasy” though double the length of the original, stays true to the source, and yet is its own beautiful beast. The backing track, a cover of Nate Dogg’s “Get Up” is surprisingly even more effective, a pulsating bass line and drum machine provide the foundation for a singsong interpretation of Nate Dogg’s rhymes that change tracks completely yet no less effective. It takes an solid club song and turns it into an epic anthem. Just as with “Ecstasy”, “Get Up” stays true to the original in many respects, but !!! build it up, fill it up with instrumentation and even speed the bpm up slighly, bolstering it to something that feels alive, especially when it builds into an orgy of psychedelic noise by way of James Brown. Was !!! back? Sure felt like it.
The following year, their third album emerged, and I was absolutely hesitant to hop on board. Hadn’t they learned that what we want are two back-to-back powerhouse tracks, not full albums. Was it true, had they learned how to compose songs and not just drift aimlessly over repetitive riffs? The preview track, “Heart of Hearts” not only confirmed it, but threatened to best even the now legendary “Me and Guiliani…” as their greatest song. But the album, with it’s first two tracks at under 200 seconds in length, showed that they weren’t only capable of epics, and that they knew how to make shorter songs work. The opening title track sucks the listener in with an infectious groove, twangy guitars, and inviting lyrics. If anything it proves too short, but the pounding “All My Heroes Are Weirdos” shifts gears so drastically there’s no time to dwell. “Must Be The Moon” at just under six minutes, is a concentrated dancehall floor burner, but can compete with any of !!!’s epics to date. It’s rapidly paced, and doesn’t give itself time to dwell. Throughout the album, there seems to be story within the lyrics, which is instead of novelty the norm. “Sweet Life” turns the !!! style on its head, taking an almost Stevie Wonder-esque, dance-soul turn, while “Yadnus” is a thundering march that seeps sweat through your headphones, and the eight-minute “Bend Over Beethoven” proves that they haven’t lost their epic touch. The final track, “Infinifold” is weak, !!! venturing into ballad territory, which they’re not incapable of moving to, but needs to be carefully tread.
33 Bands: 6
(what is 33 bands?)
Does !!! make “the list”? I’m not sure. I’m certainly capable of succumbing to their infectiousness, but at the same time, I’m not 100% certain of their ability to build upon Myth Takes nor how much longevity they have. I’ll tentatively add them to “the list” and see
Albums owned: Louden Up Now (2004); Myth Takes (2006)
Eps owned: Me and Guiliani Down By The Schoolyard (A True Story) (2003); Take Ecstasy With Me (2005)
Album(s) missing: !!! (2001)
Status: On tour
Personal history: Saw them live in 2007, and found the lead singer’s go-go dancing somewhat… unsettling, which actually put me off the group for a while. I got over it.
33 bands (in no particular order):
1. The National
2. Modest Mouse
3. De La Soul
4. TV on the Radio
5. The Futureheads