If the punk rock of the 1970s abided by a less-is-more philosophy—shorter songs, easier arrangements, zero costumes or concept albums, etc.—than the credo of new-millennium indie rockers is that more-is-the-new-less. I saw !!! open for Modest Mouse four or five years ago and it seemed like there were a couple dozen more people on stage than in the audience of the mid-sized venue. All sorts of instruments were being banged, plucked, strummed, and tooted, and the din was only barely governed by Nic Offer, a scrawny guy in a dashiki bouncing around the stage recklessly, even though there was barely room to stand, much less dance. By contrast, the headlining Mice weren’t just modest: they were demure.
With their un-Google-able name (pronounced “chk-chk-chk”) and a whole lot of attitude, !!! continue to try get your groove thang shook by insisting that Remain In Light is the only album that matters. The differences between Myth Takes and earlier !!! albums are cursory—the lyrics are less politically-minded, the arrangements a little fuller and noisier—but diversity isn’t really the point here. !!!‘s records and live shows are defiant in a way other dance acts’ are not: there’s a party going on, but you’re not necessarily invited. Notice how Offer’s vocals on Myth Takes’ best track, “All My Heroes Are Weirdos,” tease and snarl like a schoolyard bully who won’t share his Tonka truck. Backed by “I Zimbra”-style guitars and a rhythm section that almost certainly includes a few trashcan lids, “Heroes” is !!! is at their best: both alluring and daunting. The band is clearly the punkest of the disco-punk acts.
But then, didn’t disco-punk die around the time The Rapture signed to Motown and nobody cared? Sounding 20 years out of date—i.e. like Talking Heads—is hip; sounding two or three years out of date is stale, particularly in a blog-equipped scene, where you can be sick of a record weeks before its release date. Plus, not unlike the weaker Elephant 6 albums (the scene to which !!! is more than a little indebted), Myth Takes can emphasize sound over craft. Considering that the band rarely departs from the same tribal drumbeat, there are only so many different blips and bloops you can hear before you start to wonder where the melodies are. But it’s their party and they can compose if they want to. The fact is, Myth Takes is a record that’s tough not to enjoy, even while you’re wondering if you shouldn’t.