!!!

Wallop

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    6
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The long-running dance punk group !!! were on a hot streak during the 2010s as they released one window-rattling, dancefloor-filling album after another. Records like As If and Shake the Shudder are loose limbed, hard edged, and full of the kind of passion that drives the best kind of dance music. The string of albums was so impressive it seemed like it might go on forever, but 2019's Wallop is the first stumble since forever ago. Despite utilizing a similar formula of disco, dance punk, and house, and the same basic cast of characters, the record feels like a dampened version of what the band usually do, as if the edges were filed off to make the songs more palatable to streaming services and their popular play lists. The songs don't have the same rugged bounce or sharp-edged lyrical takes; vocalist Nic Offer sounds strangely whispery and subdued; and the hooks seem designed to sink in very slowly rather than grab the listener right away. It's not bad exactly, and large chunks of the album are still fun and pleasingly propulsive, especially when Meah Pace adds her fiery vocals. "Off the Grid" and "This Is the Door" have the powerful punch of vintage !!! and Pace's input boosts the acid-funk groover "My Fault" up a notch or two. Other songs have some nice touches, like the tight French Touch guitars and sped-up vocals on "Couldn't Have Known" or the electro breaks on "Rhythm of the Gravity," but far too much of the record feels muted and over-produced. The shimmeringly slick "Serbia Drums" feels like a hollow version of !!!, "Slow Motion" is glossy and lightweight, and "50 Million" is annoyingly corny. The band have never made music that's sounded so modern and disconcertingly eager to please. It's a sea change that's hard to swallow, and despite the presence of some decent tracks, Wallop is the band's weakest album to date.

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