First of all, let's be frank: !!! are at their strongest performing live. We can be more specific, even: !!! are at their strongest performing live in a small, unconventional venue, where the barriers between audience and crowd can be broken down, and where Nic Offer - not exactly Wilson Pickett behind the mic - can come into his own as a cheerleader and orchestrator of the throng, instead of having to be 'just' the singer.
The first time I saw !!! was one of those near life-changing experiences. I danced for the first time in, oh, seven years - the first time since my wedding reception. For weeks afterwards I was proselytising like those acid house evangelists in 87/88. "You must see this band," I instructed everyone I knew. I listened to "Me and Giuliani ..." and the first album (on GSL) nearly constantly for ages.
And then, after a year of waiting, this album arrived. And goodness was I disapponted. It seemed to be a shapeless, formless mess of percussion. Where were the songs? Where were those fabulous 80s brass stabs? Where was the structure? After a couple of plays I put it aside for a few weeks. And then I returned. And you know what: the weather was warmer, everyone seemed happier, and the album seemed a whole lot better.
"Louden Up Now" isn't a record for listening to intently all the way through. Offer is a hopeless singer, and his lyrics are asinine. But the album is a groove: it's one for parties; it's one for cleaning the house to; it's one for playing in the car ; it's one for pretty well all of everyday life, without ever descending into background music.
Like one of the other reviewers, I do think it hangs together better than The Rapture's Echoes: it seems less contrived, more organic, unconcerned with touching all the stylistic bases. And while I think it will only make perfect sense to those who have seen the band - which has to be considered a weakness - I think anyone prepared to spend enough time with "Louden Up Now" will come to recognise its own strengths.
Next time though, chaps, a little bit less jamming and a little more in the way of songcraft. Please? I guarantee you more people will want to buy your records - and we know from "Giuliani" that you can do it.