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Early Listening: !!! - Strange Weather, Isn't It?

​How will a band whose sound came of age in the previous decade enter into this newfangled 2010? With quite an interesting bang, actually.

Sacramento-based dance-punk band !!! (pronounced chik-chik-chik for those uninformed/always curious but too embarrassed to ask) reeled off three albums in the previous decade, starting with 2001's !!! and on through perhaps their best work, 2007's Myth Takes.

What started as a raw, funky sound turned into a calculated, driving force by the time Myth Takes hit stores.

!!! had really created their own genre, complete with a sound unabashedly uniquely their own. So how will their latest album, Strange Weather, Isn't It? stack up against their impressive, previous resumé?

Well, for one thing, John Pugh -- perhaps the heart of the band's funkiness -- left the band shortly after Myth Takes was released to focus on his own project, Free Blood. Pugh brought a passion and white man's funk to the band that many figured would be tricky to replace, but !!!'s impresario -- the always affable Nic Offer -- did well in tapping the soulful Shannon Funchess to step in. It is her vocals that would take over for Pugh's while on tour, and it's on Strange Weather that Funchess gets to really step up her game, shining on many track -- the quirky "Wannagin, Wannagin" being her boldest example.

Strange Weather continues the tried and true !!! tradition of crafting an insanely catchy chorus that is easily memorizable and, thus, repeatable before a song's end. Take for instance the album's second track, "The Most Certain Sure." In it, frontman Nic Offer sings "And it's a good thing / It's a good thing," demanding that listeners get this line stuck in their head, gleefully repeating it before the end of the song's five-plus minutes. The same thing goes for the interestingly-titled "Jamie, My Intentions Are Bass," as the titular line will, in fact, become easily repeatable.

Absent from Strange Weather is an eight-minute opus the likes of "Bend Over Beethoven," perhaps the band's finest track, yet there is still a down-home, vintage !!! feel to Strange Weather. There are the brash, raw musical elements of !!! ("Steady as the Sidewalk Cracks") mixed in with the heavy-handed lyrical content of Louden Up Now ("Even Judas Gave Jesus A Kiss") all drizzled a nice, light-hearted Myth Takes funk ganache ("Jump Back"). Now, if it sounds lame of me to say a band's fourth album sounds like a mixture of their previous three, then so be it -- but that's really the best way to describe Strange Weather. The album sounds like the band went back, did their homework and emerged with the best elements from their previous albums -- all of which had their own, unique charm.

One thing is for sure -- the funk-driven bass and rapturous drums of Strange Weather have an early, 2001-era !!! feel to them. That's what has kept the band in business, their knack for creating a pulsating, crescendo-driving funk jam -- one that builds to a throbbing apex that is insanely satisfying more than most things in life. Fans of !!! will be pleased with Strange Weather, given the band's many lineup changes throughout the years. Strange Weather, Isn't It? is an album for  those diehard, original !!! fans that also has an appeal to those listeners not so familiar with the uniqueness of !!!'s style.

Strange Weather, Isn't It? is out August 24 via Warp. Tracklist is as follows:

01 AM/FM

02 The Most Certain Sure

03 Wannagain Wannagain

04 Jamie, My Intentions Are Bass

05 Steady as the Sidewalk Cracks

06 Hollow

07 Jump Back

08 Even Judas Gave Jesus a Kiss

09 The Hammer

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