Louden Up Now

By Benjamin Lehmann

!!! (pronounced 'chk chk chk') were formed in 1996 by the former members of mid-90s hardcore group Yah Mos. This is their third long player, if you count the joint album they shared back in 1999 with dub act Outhud, and their self-titled 2000 release (both on Gold Standard Laboratories).

Louden Up Now is all about live music. The band's experience of touring and gigging in the US (and soon here, I hope) really comes through in the energy of the individual performances and the high level of understanding between the musicians. Pardon My Freedom, which you will have heard if you've been anywhere near a decent radio show recently, is driven by an infectious hardcore riff with Black Flag and Henry Rollins written all over it. It is difficult to imagine how this sits on top of a funk/soul groove until you hear it, but it makes bands like the rapture seem anodyne by comparison. Not that !!! rely on cheap genre fusions for their appeal. Nic Offer's voice is compelling in a way that so few are, moving between thrash punk abuse and rhythm and blues inflections on When The Going Get Tough... with a remarkable ease. Parts of Theme From Space Island are dedicated entirely to improvised structures, with riffs and basslines provided by trumpet and saxophones. The production is equally inventive, capturing the sheer volume and electricity of a gig with the heavy use of grimy guitar effects and stomp boxes. Where Louden Up Now threatens to veer into art-student obscurity, it is rescued by some truly modern song writing, digging ironically at the state of the music industry on Hello? Is This Thing On? and engaging with contemporary politics: “What did George Bush say when he met Tony Blair? Shit scheisse merde.”

The album is in the shops this week, (which is why the streets of London are now paved with !!! posters) and if there's any justice it will fly off the shelves.
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