!!! – Strange Weather, Isn’t It? (Warp/Border) CD Review

For the purposes of pronunciation (and spell-checkers, presumably), New York group !!! are commonly known as Chk-Chk-Chk. Although this is their fifth album, Strange Weather, Isn’t It? is the first that I’ve found myself playing for enjoyment’s sake.

Obviously enamoured of New York’s ‘No-Wave’ of the early ‘80s, as well as the very English, early Factory Records sound, !!! have always come across as a group swallowed up and left to hang out to dry by their devotion to niches in rock’s glorious tapestry.

Their latest doesn’t change any of that, but they have found a more enjoyable cribbing of influences. Recorded in Berlin and steeped in a brew of late ‘70s Bowie/Eno/Iggy, !!! have ended up sounding pretty much exactly like A Certain Ratio; and yes, ACR had a name taken from an Eno track, and were themselves influenced by Bowie’s Berlin period, but added their own mutant funk twist.

ACR’s first few albums (all on the Factory label)are stunning pieces of crossover avant music-making, achieving an intoxicating blend of groove and dark, foreboding atmospheres. Strange Weather, Isn’t It? is at times alarmingly similar to ACR, but every now and then I find myself forgiving them, when things really take off into a space and time-warping, Sherwood-style motorik dub trance.

Then again, on certain tracks they resemble flawed jazz/funk aggregation Pig Bag more than ACR, and the allure drops away severely.

Not a great album all the way through, but with Strange Weather, Isn’t It? !!! have come up with some killer fret-bending new wave disco that’s energetic, experimental, yet voluptuous. At its best, this space funk has dirt under its nails, and a way with repetition that will keep you under its spell.

Oh, and it’s got a great, fulsome bottom end. GARY STEEL

Sound = 4/5

Music = 3.5/5

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