Kindred spirits: Chic, Liquid Liquid, Spoon
Show: With Sinkane and DJ Joshua on Saturday at the Black Cat. Doors open at 9 p.m. 202-667-4490. www.blackcatdc.com. $15.
The title of !!!’s fifth album isn’t entirely a joke. The bicoastal sextet’s “Thr!!!er” does emulate the starker, jumpier numbers on Michael Jackson’s multi-multi-platinum album. But don’t expect ballads, let alone duets with Paul McCartney. While moving closer to mainstream pop-funk, the group (pronounced “chk chk chk”) retains its penchant for angular grooves and spare production. The latter is provided this time by drummer Jim Eno of Spoon, another band that keeps things lean.
Opening track “Even When the Water’s Cold” announces !!!’s strategy. The song consists of little more than vocals and a rhythm section, with a trebly guitar pulsing intermittently. Female voices join singer Nic Offer for the chorus and are conspicuous on other tunes as well. Molly Schnick’s contributions to the dub-inspired “Slyd” are essential and so sing-songy that they recall Tom Tom Club’s schoolgirlish chants.
Offer and his cohorts haven’t entirely discarded their rock side, as they demonstrate on “Station (Meet Me at The),” which quotes the Rolling Stones. But they sound just as serious about “Careful,” with its disco-style swirling strings and falsetto-driven refrain. If !!! can produce more songs as commercial as that one, who knows — perhaps the band’s next album might even rate a McCartney duet.