A gangly, shaggy-haired dude in tiny shorts and a sweaty pink T-shirt gyrates luridly amid roving spots, flickering strobes and colored gels. He duck-walks, dip-dip-dives and twirls with outspread arms. He scissor-kicks. He thrusts his pelvis and pop-locks. Before him, a sea of wrist-banded hands waves ecstatically as taut funk guitars and wiry synths darn the air.
The dude is !!!'s Nic Offer, and the setting is the video for "Heart of Hearts," the lead single from his band's latest and greatest album, Myth Takes. While Offer claims that the name can be pronounced as any combination of onomatopoeic sounds, often including "bang" and "pow," it's most commonly rendered as "chk chk chk," referring to the click consonants of certain African languages.
It's apt that the Brooklyn-based band's name is all action: Offer and co. turn indie's dour stereotypes on their heads, reveling in good-times goofiness and a knack for performative overstatement. Sure, !!! won't be the first band given to wanton showmanship to play the Cat's Cradle. But in today's largely inert indie rock landscape, the stage has grown more accustomed to bands staring at their shoes for fans who regard dancing as something mental midgets do when, you know, you're listening to rap or something. That's not !!!.
Nominally a dance-punk band, !!! draws from diverse lineages to create their hard-charging, polyrhythmic meltdowns—Krautrock, disco, house music, trance, funk, and soul. Guitars appear on Myth Takes, but they never dominate it, instead folding neatly into kinetic convulsions. This is dance-punk where the punk has all but vanished in favor of high-end pop polish.
I'll never forget the first time I saw !!! perform, albeit briefly. It must've been around 2001; the band was new and still little-known, touring off of their self-titled debut LP. They were opening for either Modest Mouse or Isaac Brock side-project Ugly Casanova, and I didn't make it a point to show up early. My mistake: While Brock's set soon faded from memory, I vividly recall walking into the Cat's Cradle during !!!'s final song and being confronted by a stage with a ridiculous number of people on it, playing huge crash cymbals, various drums, horns, and guitars, Offer leading the crowd in a "soul clap" to the exuberant refrain, "Can you feel it? Jackson 5!"
It's fitting that what was once Isaac Brock's tough act to follow is now a headlining unit, especially when they've made their best album yet and when their somewhat kindred spirits of LCD Soundsystem have cracked the Top 50 of The Billboard 200. Indeed, Myth Takes forgoes the cerebral noodling that sometimes tempered the impact of their early, more Talking Heads-inspired work, and that should only mean the band will finally deliver its consistently high-impact set with little filler.
As huge hooks pinion agile, thrumming rhythms, the band's relentless enthusiasm should stir the soles of even the most dedicated wallflowers. Whether it's the rubbery Spaghetti-Western peals of Myth Takes' title track, the dorsal-fin funk of "All My Heroes are Weirdoes," the squelchy stomp of "Yadnus," or the swaggering soul of "Must be the Moon," !!!'s songs are among the brightest lights in the growing canon of personality-driven, rock-tinged dance music. Psychedelic Georgia post-rockers Maserati open the show. And good for them: !!! is going to bring down the house.
!!! plays Cat's Cradle with Maserati Monday, May 28, at 9 p.m. Tickets are $12 and $14 day of show.