Louden Up Now
Touch and Go
’m done with disco-punk. Why would I want to listen to 10 minutes of groovegroovegroove?”
It was one of those comments that makes me sick to my stomach, simply because I have absolutely no idea where to begin to answer it. Over the last couple years, disco-punk has proven to be one of the most exciting movements in modern music, with—to these ears, at least—several truly earth-shattering singles, not the least of which was !!!’s very own “Me and Giuliani (Down By the Schoolyard)”. Near-symphonic in scope, but too enjoyably dumb to ever conceivably call pretentious, “Me and Giuliani” was undoubtedly the single of 2003, and the one that forever pointed towards the possibilities beyond groovegroovegroove.
In fact, it was a single whose momentum was so strong that it successfully strung fans along for a whole year before its accompanying full-length was released. And now we have Louden Up Now—!!!’s second full-length and the latest hope for The Great Disco-punk LP after Electric Six and The Rapture failed to live up to expectations. And guess what? It isn’t much more than 54 minutes of groovegroovegroove.
I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised—aside from “Me and Giuliani,” !!! had consistently failed to prove that they could, in fact, do much more than groovegroovegroove. Their self-titled LP was full of forgettable hooks and questionable lyrics—a sort of ambient funk that, aside from the “Me and Giuliani” blueprint “Feel Good Hit of the Fall,” sounded cool but didn’t last a second longer than the forty minutes it played. Further singles and b-sides proved little to the contrary.
Louden Up Now goes further, but not in the areas that count. Songs like “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Gets Crazee” and the three-part “ShitSchiesseMerde” add some new elements—more complex, heavily produced percussion and a bunch of nifty sound effects, which are definite improvements upon the incidental minimalism of the first LP. But the music is still missing one crucial element—hooks. There really aren’t any of which to speak, and no amount of production skill and instrumental finesse is able to mask that.
Oh, and by the way, if reading those song titles made you cringe, you may as well stop reading right now. Lead singer Nic Offer’s lyrics are so dumb that if you don’t buy into them, not even an album full of songs on the caliber of “Me and Giuliani” would keep you from holding your ears while you lunged at the stop button with your elbows. Nowhere is this more apparent than the catchy chorus of “Pardon My Freedom,” “Like a give a fuck / Like a give a shit about that fuck / Like I give a fuck about that motherfucking shit.” Or, from the same song, “you can tell the president to suck my fucking dick.” That’s not a real off-putter for me—dumb lyrics in good dance music are 100% excusable (how else could I forgive “Me and Giuliani”’s “shake that butt” line?), and if you really start getting into Nic’s world, they’re actually quite fun—but obviously that doesn’t hold for everyone, so if you (for some reason) listen to dance music for the lyrics, proceed no further.
To be fair, there are some points where the album grows addictive. The previously mentioned “Pardon My Freedom” is splendid for its first half—though the chorus could use a hook to match the chant-ability of the lyrics—but it doesn’t take off until after the lyrics drop out and the boys really hit the dancefloor. And the best new song must be “Hello? Is This Thing On?,” which has a fabulous performance from Nic (screaming gloriously about how “EVERYBODY THINKS I’M FUCKING CRAZY!”) and a structure practically stands up to “Me and Giuliani” in terms of scope—with catchy music to match, this time.
Speaking of which, “Me and Giuliani” is included here—a silly move on the part of !!! that will forever damn Louden On Up to reviews like this one. It sounds as good as ever, but it also sounds totally out of place—if you’re ready to buy this album, it’s probably because you overplayed “Me and Giualini” and you were waiting for nine new songs of equal quality. Listening to it on Louden Up Now, you feel “OK, I already know how great this one is, when’s the rest of the album going to get as good?” As if that wasn’t bad enough, the album follows it up with the two most unimpressive songs of the album, as if they expected “Me and Giuliani” to automatically hoist the quality level of everything around it with its greatness.
Unlike the aforementioned groove criticism of the genre, I’m not done with disco-punk. We’re 0 for 3 so far, which I suppose technically counts as a strike out, but our next batter up is LCD Soundsystem, with a new one this fall, so things are looking OK. And what’s more, !!! probably wouldn’t even classify this new album as disco-punk. They’re probably right. With the new advancements made on Louden Up Now, they’ve achieved a sort of AmbientFunkProgDisco-punk. But sadly, when you take all these elements and put them together, and forget the hooks in the process, it doesn’t add up to much more than groovegroovegroove.