!!!: Myth Takes

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Album: Myth Takes
Label: Warp

The bi-coastal dance-punk ensemble !!! drew a lot of heat after the release of its sublime 2003 party single "Me And Giuliani Down By The Schoolyard," but the band responded with an album, Louden Up Now, that was kind of a whiff. Too short—with a good chunk of its running time taken up by doodling interludes and a reprise of "Me And Giuliani"—Louden Up Now made even some of the band's devotees wonder if !!!'s ecstatic live shows could ever be replicated on CD for any sustained length.

The band's third album, Myth Takes, answers that question with a qualified "yes." Far more rounded than Louden Up Now, the new record follows !!!'s tautly funky jams down multiple generic paths, as on the album-opening title track, which combines noir-ish rockabilly and eerie industrial whistling. The song "Myth Takes" is also refreshingly short—just two-and-a-half minutes—and yet fully realized. Myth Takes contains plenty of typically !!!-ian sprawling songs, like the thrillingly cacophonous "Bend Over Beethoven," but this time out the band has learned to be compact, too. The album's best song, "All My Heroes Are Weirdos," stacks up marching-band cadences and Talking Heads-style Afrobeat, and gets in and out in just over three minutes, leaving pulses still racing.

The major stumbling blocks of !!!'s shtick still pertain. The band's lyrics are mostly half-assed slogans, and its method of building up songs through hours of jamming means that they all tend to fall into the same basic "everybody disco!" pattern. But on Myth Takes, those patterns have become more complex and full, and capable of creating subtle moods, as on the single "Heart Of Hearts," which rumbles to life like the city streets at dawn. And even when !!! repeats itself, it does so in a way that's touchingly human. Myth Takes has the communal warmth of musicians playing together, adding one piece at a time until everything sounds all chummy.