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!!! – Wallop

Dance-punks !!! (chk chk chk) have been putting out records under their cryptic band name for two decades now. With their eighth studio LP, the Sacramento-based outfit do a lot more of what they’ve already been accustomed to – pitting dance grooves against punk rock’s more rugged textures. Wallop is a fairly mixed bag that at its best stirs up a few minutes of fun, and at its worst skates on by without leaving much of an impression.

The acid-house inspired “Let It Change U” starts things off on an exciting note. A shimmering synth intro waltzes into some propulsive squelching dance grooves. But !!! sadly can’t keep up that momentum, not even into the next track. “Couldn’t Have Known” brings in some misplaced acoustic strums into the mix to blend in with the stabbing synths. With weak melodic moments throughout and an altogether flat instrumental, this is one of many all too forgettable tracks on Wallop.

“Off The Grid” is probably the best track here. It’s carried by a fierce four on the floor beat – a whipped snare and deep reverberating bass lay the bed for skittering layers of synth. It’s a dense piece of dance music with a fatalist bent to its lyrics; “everybody’s trying to say what they did, when things got funny and the shit got out of control.”

Wallop is weighed down with some curious, unnecessary interludes. “In The Grid”, serving as a coda to “Off The Grid”, brings in some sparkling guitars into the mix. The cloudy vocals are subdued and the groove is altogether toned down. “Slo Mo” does the same thing after its mother track. Both of these snippets simply run on from their previous track, and didn’t need to be a separate song. And for an album that is such a directionless blend of ideas, it’s a curious attempt to add some continuity or cohesiveness.

“Serbia Drums” is a lighter change of pace, stylistically reminiscent of Beck’s Colors (2017). It’s bright and shimmering with clean, sparkly guitar. Lyrically it takes a stab at record executives and how they take advantage of their artists. It’s a story that’s true and has been told many times. So it’s curious that these guys would present it with such a lack of nuance. “We’ve known working in obscurity and we’ll know it again, we know that they’re almost done with what they need from us,” lead singer Nic Offer explains.

!!! play to their funk leanings with “My Fault.” The synths seem to open and close around a heavy, heavy bass sound. It’s a real misfire in the production end on this song. The high end of the song gets completely buried inside the muddiness of it all. “Slow Motion” bears a lot of resemblance to Tame Impala with its psychedelic harmonies and lush atmosphere. Steely melodies trade off spoken word interludes over a hazy deep house backdrop.

“$50 Million” is a cheap disco cut with lyrics that are frustratingly on the nose – not even mentioning the grating “na na na”s in the chorus. “Form my opinions from a comfortable position, but my politics are still unproven,” Offer states. It’s a very obvious take.

“Domino” is a tamer but interesting moment in the track listing. Oscillating synths and ping-ponging vocal samples help form a creeping atmosphere. “Rhythm Of The Gravity” is a strange experimental try for the band. Distorted synths take all sorts of turns for the sake of creating chaos, but that chaos doesn’t feel earned. There is also an awkward transition into some atonal guitar leads and even an EDM festival-style drop.

“UR Paranoid” is a more direct call to the dancefloor with its whiplash groove and snappy hi-hats. Big squelching synths take over the chorus. Unfortunately the vocal performance here is too half-assed and distracting from the rest of the music.

“This Is The Door” is a call back to nostalgia with its 70s inspired packaging and soulful vocals. Its fun jittery disco groove and effervescent quality is a nice change of pace, but within the track listing it feels very out of place.

There isn’t much out of a couple obvious misjudgments that are exactly bad. That being said, very little attention seems to have been given to the overall flow of this project. It’s a loose vignette of underdeveloped ideas. There are enjoyable moments, but nothing necessarily stands out or excites. The grooves and rhythms lack energy and the instrumentals often fall stale, a poor update on dance sounds that have been around for years. Wallop is an underwhelming offering from a band that has proven in the past that they can do better.