With the dance-punk invasion of 2003 properly chewed up and spit out, maybe it’s time for us to acknowledge that the novelty is gone and what’s left is here to stay. Indie music has taken on a decidedly more danceable tone in the past few years, and with new releases from the Class of 2003 (!!!, LCD Soundsystem, the Rapture), dance-punk has stepped back out of its corner and etched itself a bona-fide slot in the spectrum.
Louden Up Now (2004), the previous album from !!!, was much lauded (some say it’s the best the genre has to offer) and had moments of genius: “Pardon My Freedom” and “Hello? Is this Thing On?” were dynamic and mesmerizing centerpieces. But that album was full of songs that weren’t as successful. In much the same way, Myth Takes is punctuated by moments of great ambition–moments that may be impossible to carry throughout an entire album.
The band’s biggest asset is the bravado and over-the-top charisma of vocalist Nic Offer, and the musicians’ tremendous chops, restless creative spirit and pounding yet danceable rhythms allow him to realize his potential. But it’s Offer’s performance that defines !!!. The band has generally two types of songs: those where the spotlight is on Offer as he gallivants around in whatever way he chooses; and the groove-oriented songs that focus more on tempo, instrumentation and arrangement. On this album, the line between these types is significant. Opener “Myth Takes” is a two-and-a-half-minute tribal ditty with a driving bass line, chiming flute and classic !!! absurdist lyrics like “sha sha sha sha sha doobie/sometimes it’s really just like the movies.” Throbbing bass, insistent drumbeat and soaring, passionate vocals make up “Must Be the Moon,” in which Offer tries to make sense of casual romantic encounters. “Bend Over Beethoven” may be !!!’s most adventurous and ambitious track yet. It’s an expansive and atmospheric extended funk jam with a solid groove foundation. Offer starts out with some spacey longings then shifts to a commanding vocal mood by the chorus–this is all before a three-minute-plus buildup of feedback, energy and instrumentation. By the breaking point, it’s clear that !!!’s ambitions are so grand that an album’s worth of moments like this may be too exhaustive to create.
And after all that, we get tracks like “Yadnus,” “A New Name” and “Break in Case of Anything.” They’re typical !!! mid-album fodder; they’re semi-interesting but do nothing to add to the existing triumphs of the album. As previous albums did, Myth Takes sees !!! aiming high in terms of grandiosity and intensity but falling short of its ambitions. But that the band can achieve those heights at all–even if sporadically–is something to appreciate.