By the time of their fifth album, 2013's Thr!!!er, the dance punk revivalists with the funny name !!! had been playing their funky, gritty jams for more than a decade. Common wisdom might dictate that their best years were probably behind them at this point and they were all ready to start treading water, but that's not the case here at all. They are doing some serious gold medal-winning swimming instead. The album sounds amazing, with tightly wound and whip-smart production from Spoon's Jim Eno, and the band plays with a newfound loose and rubbery style that's warmer and more fun than anything they've done yet. The needle definitely lands closer to funk this time than it does punk, as the bouncy basslines, Chic-y guitars, and easy-to-sing choruses are bright and sunny with little of the political fever that infected Louden Up Now or the machine-driven grooves of Strange Weather, Isn't It? In fact, new drummer Paul Quattrone is a bit of a hero, driving the songs forward with verve and subtle power and working with new bassist Rafael Cohen to build a bottom as strong as the previous incarnations ever were. Along with the Liquid Liquid-style jams they can throw down in their sleep, like the booming "Slyd" and "Get That Rhythm Right," the band tries out (and nails) a few new things on Thr!!!er, delving into new wave-styled pop on the "Fine Fine Fine," Stones-y dance rock on "Station (Meet Me at The)," and strutting Afro-pop influenced disco on "Even When the Water's Cold." While Nic Offer's vocals are excellent throughout, as usual, and he shows off some lovely falsetto on the slinky electro ballad "Careful," the band brought in some vocalists who really add some brilliant texture to the sound. Sonia Moore, who sang backup on MC Hammer's Too Legit to Quit, adds some fiery passion on the percolating disco jams "Except Death" and "One Girl/One Boy," Allyson Baker of Dirty Ghosts adds some gutsy yowling on her co-lead vox on "Station (Meet Me at The)," and longtime collaborator Molly Schnick adds some schoolyard sass to "Slyd." The new looseness that runs through the grooves, the variety the additional voices bring, the very strong songs, and Eno' perfect production all add up as the album plays, and as a result, Thr!!!ler ranks as the band's best work to date. That also makes it one of the best modern dance punk records to date, right up there with LCD Soundsystem's best.
Tim Sendra, Rovi