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As If Josh Gray , October 15th, 2015 09:00

!!! have been lurking at the bottom of iTunes libraries everywhere since 2001, cheerfully reminding the world that there were survivors of the mass dance-punk extinction of the late noughties. While their New York-based peers eventually accepted the limitations of their short, spontaneous scene; these unhinged Sacramento boys have revelled in the challenge of maturing while retaining the immaturity inherent in their band's conception. Other acts usually chase continued relevance and musical integrity by delving ever further into the obtuse and inaccessible, but !!! (or Chk Chk Chk. Or Nom Nom Nom. Or literally any other staccato syllable repeated thrice) have consistently attempted the opposite: sonic evolution through the pursuit of the most euphoric, joyous sound the universe has to offer. This is a band those aim is to inspire laughter lines rather than furrowed brows in their audience, po-faced cynics be damned. If pure, uninhibited happiness is the name of the game, As If is the aural equivalent of your dad opening your front door to find David Gilmour holding two tickets for The Grateful Dead reunion in one hand and a blotter of LSD in the other. 

As its artwork starring a gleeful monkey jiving on a mountain of bananas subtly suggests, this is not an album for quiet introspection; in fact listening to As If alone in a dark room might inspire seizures. This is an album with more perpetual motion than Ezra Furnham starring in a feature length Meat Spin remake. Whether it's the incessant dancefloor throb of 'All You Writers' or the autotuned histrionics of 'All The Way', each track feels like it accompanies a hectic montage of fast-paced hedonism played wholly for laughs. Schizophrenic keyboards jostle against falsetto vocals and Nile-Rogers-on-speed guitar licks. Synthetic club bangers rub shoulders with full band wig outs. The closest thing to a breather comes on a track honestly, unabashedly called 'Lucy Mongoosey'. !!! are going to frankly ridiculous lengths to put the 'fun' back into 'funk' here, tapping into whatever bizarre cosmic force inspired Red Hot Chili Peppers to make The Uplift Mofo Party Plan and George Clinton to make Funkentelechy Vs. The Placebo Syndrome. In a world where Sam Smith has recorded a Bond theme and Ryan Adams can cover Taylor Swift without his tongue even tickling his cheek, maybe what the world needs right now is a little less earnestness.  

That's not to say that !!! don't take things too far here, because they definitely do. As the album progresses its forays into self-indulgent parody swing further and further into the realm of novelty. Both 'Bam City' and and 'Funk (I Got This)' sound like they could have been spiritual successors to 'To Many Dicks (On The Dancefloor)' in Flight Of The Conchords' upcoming film (I'm actually fairly sure that the former song shares lyrics with 'Hurt Feelings' from the kiwi duo's second album). Album closer 'I Feel So Free (Citation Needed)' (what's this obsession with brackets?) might be the most audaciously silly thing ever committed to wax: a behemoth of a track that contains only a single repeated refrain which pulsates endlessly under a barrage of such lyrical gems as "what I want is what I want and that is what I've always tried to hide" and ad-libbed mulling over whether Swedish Grammys are called 'Swammies'. It's utter stupidity is excused by just how much fun it sounds like the band are having in the studio, as well as its gloriously unhinged performance from singer Nic Offer.

Besides his voice, which alternates between chattering macaque and booming howler monkey repeatedly over the album's runtime, Offer's vision and leadership of the band keep this album from becoming the mess it threatens to be at times. It may occasionally sound like he's marshalling meerkats with attention deficit disorder through an exhibition on the history of dance music, but the tightly coiled studio structures he levies on what were obviously previous formless jams lead to some stunning results. Chief of these is 'Freedom 15', a self-aware yet successful attempt to hammer about eighteen different ideas into one perfect dancefloor filler. It's the absolute bee's knees of Bee-Gees influenced disco abandon: hitting the ears, circumventing the brain and moving straight to the hips in a second. Its supreme quality ultimately detracts from the rest of the album, the tight but comparatively unremarkable following track 'Ooo' effectively sacrificed on its predecessor's altar. Thanks to its commendable "let's throw shit at the wall and see what sticks" approach, As If contains more dizzying peaks and valleys than a Zorb ride through Derbyshire (and leaves you twice as exhausted). Possibly the most fun you'll ever have once before throwing in the towel and doing something valuable with your life.

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