Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Album review: Chk Chk Chk - Thriller

Thr!!!er by name, thriller by nature. Having set their stall with an innovative play on punctuation, Sacramento dance-punks !!! – more readily Googleable as Chk Chk Chk - have been trumpeting longplayer number five as their high-water mark, a record to finally put the sextet on the map.

 Yet 2010’s Strange Weather, Isn’t it? hardly suggested this was a band preparing to set the world ablaze. In fact, so unwieldy was the record’s clatter of kaleidoscopic funk, it seemed more likely they’d be harrumphing to the bottom of a slippery career slope, never to be heard from again. A game changing moment looked unrealistic.

To an extent, Thr!!!er dismisses this pessimistic train of thought. These sounds are !!! to the core, filled with sleazy, air-tight grooves and sinuous guitars. But produced under the guiding hand of Spoon’s Jim Eno, the infuriating peaks and troughs that riddled previous endeavours have been ironed out, creating a consistently danceable forty five minutes.

 And dance is what Thr!!!er does best. This is an album made for feet on the floor; an album that surges from the rainbow house euphoria of “One Girl/One Boy” to “Except Death”'s crotch-grabbing bassbin, before re-routing into the schizo- freak beats that rumble through the magnificent “Slyd”. Sure, “Station (Meet Me At)” and its turgid, swamping blues may lessen the pulse rate somewhat, but, make no mistake, this is grade-A party fodder at its most unhinged.

Still, hyperactive, dancehall bangers have always been !!!’s shtick; here, they’re just tighter and sturdier in execution. And ultimately, such safely played conservatism feels like an opportunity squandered. Rather than opting for an exhilarating sonic adventure, Thr!!!er defaults on ass-slapping, mindless tunes. While the results are at times scintillating, it often feels like a thriller without quite enough killer.

First published in the print edition of Under the Radar

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