A decade has passed since !!!'s debut album took a snapshot of the sweat, noise, and antsy groove those guys hashed out in overcrowded parties and basements across the sleepy state capital of Sacramento. Fortunately, Strange Weather, Isn't It? proves they won't be doomed as quaint hipster schlock from the "dance punk" movement of yore.
This album is !!!'s leanest, funkiest, and most accessible work ever, as well as their darkest—the deaths of their drummers Jerry Fuchs and Mikel Gius loom high in the atmosphere. Frontman Nic Offer often dwells on betrayal and isolation. "You can roll up the window/But you can't drown out the wind," as he puts it on opener "AM/FM." The band later channels Public Image Ltd's death-disco vibe on "Jump Back," where somber, koto-like guitar riffs and Offer's graveyard imagery blanket a disco rhythm exhaled from the Paradise Garage. Guitarist Mario Andreoni deftly anchors such mood swings again on "Jamie, My Intentions Are Bass," jumping from gothic textures to bright, Chic-graced licks before ending the tune on a melancholic note through chords that drip like a rainshower. The closest thing to a centerpiece, "The Most Certain Sure," dives from a narcotic dancefloor groove into a dub-echo space where Offer's hazy vocals float upon the ether as if easing out of heartbreak.
Such uplift from dread makes Strange Weather a fitting party record for our age when so many American Dreams, lived and fantasized, are falling apart. Pass the bottle.