In these tumultuous times, it is near impossible to go through your day without hearing about another scandal, perceived threat, or looming end to democracy. It seems as if a worrisome level of gloom and seriousness has infiltrated our thoughts, and the usual remedies like conversation and entertainment can no longer serve as escapes. Thankfully, !!! (Chk Chk Chk) has just released an album guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Although Shake The Shudder is similar to what we’ve come to expect from the dance-punk outfit, this album is more rewarding than their previous releases due to its stark contrast from the messaging we are bombarded with on an hourly basis. Shut off your televisions, shred those newspapers, and turn up this record to dance the world away.
Despite their near-twenty year existence of making records, the band’s youthful energy remains. The synth melodies are catchy as always, and the crisp production from long-time collaborator Patrick Ford guarantees a fun listen from start to finish. Shake The Shudder is the most disco inspired album in the !!! catalogue, as highlighted from opener “The One 2”, which blends a deep bass groove with interchanging male-female vocals from frontman Nic Offer and Lea Lea. “NRGQ” (from the French “énergique”) is four minutes of pure fun with a breakdown vocal that will have you singing along. The song has one of the most addictive synth lines on the album that will sound familiar to the few who still remember Crazy Frog. With parts of the album written in France and Barcelona, “NRGQ” has a very Euro club feel to it and is certainly worthy of its song title.
“Dancing Is The Best Revenge” is the absolute standout from Shake The Shudder and is one of my early nominees for Song of the Summer. The fat baseline groove makes dancing irresistible before the song explodes in the chorus. Nic Offer’s vocals are pitched up on the verses to produce a unique sound, and the song is perfectly crafted for the dancefloor with an anthemic “dancing is the best revenge” chorus and a sugary synth solo finale.
After a near flawless first third of the album, Shake The Shudder calms down in its later songs. Though still an enjoyable listen, songs like “Throw Yourself In The River”, “What r u up 2Day?” and “Things Get Hard” lack the dance urgency of the album’s first singles. The mid-album lull comes to a halt with “Five Companies” and the multi-dimensional “Imaginary Interviews”. “Imaginary Interviews” starts as a straight-ahead pop song that wouldn’t be out of place on Top 40 radio, but soon blends go-go drums with a bop-da-bop house music vocal and a searing guitar solo, making for one of the most interesting songs on the album. Shake The Shudder has a shine that doesn’t wear off with repeated listens, and you’ll find yourself requesting many of these songs at parties in the coming months. !!! has put together an album of uncontrollably danceable songs, and is an instant remedy to the worries of the day.