If you’ve read any of my reviews this year you’ll have noticed an ongoing theme as I contemplate how I’ve aged. I think it’s an end of decade symptom; a mandatory look back at the last arbitrary division of time.
I’ve enjoyed revisiting artists, !!! included, and albums from the last decade and beyond as part of this exercise. This has also re-affirmed the huge gap in my album listening over the past five to ten years as mechanisms for the consumption of music and the kind of musicians making the best albums have inevitably evolved.
What hasn’t evolved, at least on the evidence of Wallop alone, is !!!’s sound. I have to confess that in 2019 I had no idea that this band were still going. It’s nice to be reminded that they’re still around and of tracks like ‘Must Be The Moon’ and ‘Heart of Hearts’ from second album ‘Myth Takes’. But for whatever the reason, ‘Myth Takes’ was the last time I listened to them and I’ve missed out, somewhat unbelievably, on five albums since. Maybe I stopped evolving too by the time I was 25 and that’s why I like it?
Without going back over the !!! albums in between now and then I can’t say for sure that their sound hasn’t evolved but it does leave you wondering whether anything with !!! has moved or whether they’ve come over all nostalgic.
But is this a bad thing? I enjoyed it back then and I’m enjoying most of it now. From the ominous opening bassline of ‘Let It Change You’ to the squelchy synth horns of ‘This Is The Dub’, it makes you want to dance.
An album named ‘Wallop’ by a band with three exclamation marks as their name couldn’t fail to be upbeat, and upbeat it is.
And catchy too.
At its best it draws heavily on a French house sound. ‘Couldn’t Have Known’ has many hallmarks of a Cassius classic. ‘Off The Grid’ takes me back again to their first two albums. In my mind I’m once again cycling to my shitty temp job in the summer of 2007 listening to my iPod shuffle.
‘Serbia Drums’ is an album highlight and epitomises the catchiness I’ve already mentioned. I have no idea what about the drums is ‘Serbia’ but the percussion is big on this track built around a combination of simple riffs. Simple as they say is often best. The band too are in a reflective mood here:
“We’ve known working in obscurity and we’ll know it again
We know that they’re almost done with what they need from us…
We wrote every single note and chord of every single song
Lived through every stupid argument about bein’ legit”
There’s still room for contrasts: ‘My Fault’ is a funk fest while ‘Domino’ is a subtle weaving of just two or three simple ideas.
Most of the rest of the second half of the album is less successful.
Where the quality dips at times it sounds more like a dodgy disco-lite Nile Rogers/Sister Sledge tribute album.
The funk is back on ‘$50 million’ but after a promising start it gets a tad annoying. “NA NA NA NA NA” I left behind in the playground many years ago and I’ve not missed it. ‘Rhythm of Gravity’ sounds like a not very good grime track from the noughties, or for anyone else who has the misfortune of remembering Does It Offend You, Yeah? and Hadouken, like Does It Offend You, Yeah? or Hadouken. ‘UR Paranoid’ is just a bit angry and weird.
Wallop is nothing groundbreaking but it’s certainly enjoyable. So not a perfect album and the question of sonic inertia remains unanswered. But on balance I can safely say it’s been a shame that I’ve lived in ignorance of their work for so long.
Words by James Spearing.