Like a group of unhinged parade marshals making eyes at the crowd around them, !!! dodders and shakes on Louden Up Now, an album that nails both the balance and the imbalance promised by any true fusion of rock and dance music. The band (which answers to "chk-chk-chk") shares a lot with countless peers running rat-a-tat rhythms through rock scaffolds, but no other group oozes as much attitude about its disco-minded provenance.
That swagger is sure to turn off as many as it turns on, but past all the flag-waving, Louden Up Now proves moving in more ways than one. Opening with a clacking ladder of drum sounds, "When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Karazzee" catalogs all the album's ingredients: bulbous basslines, cascading cymbals, moody horns, dubby echo, and vocals that sound both impassioned and incidental. In the mouth of Nic Offer, lines like "you could learn a lot by taking your pants off" hover somewhere between a command and a punchline. As a frontman, Offer traffics in mumbles and screams, lurking in the background before lashing out behind such lines as "u can tell the President 2 suck my fucking dick!" The band behind him sounds more concerned with the mandates of groove. On "Dear Can," the group's six other player-programmers bounce guitars and saxophones off a repetitive march beat. "King's Weed" leers back at the post-punk '80s with a dub fit, before "Hello? Is This Thing On?" cranks the bass and guitar for a little punk-funk bash.
Mixed with help from house-music weirdo Maurice Fulton, Louden Up Now sounds spacious even in its dank corners. Most of the songs play like suites, shifting through spells of excess and restraint that take their time to take effect. The two-part "Shit Scheisse Merde" moves through slinky slow parts and simmering fast parts with perfect patience. It never crests, but "Me And Giuliani Down By The Schoolyard (A True Story)" does: Trading in cowbells, thumb-slapped bass, echo guitar, and hi-hats hung out to dry, the single caps an album that gives the retro-minded dance-rock scene a new classic of its own.