Myth Takes

(Warp; 2007)

By Conrad Amenta | 28 July 2007

Except for the rare moments during which frontman Nic Offer is singing about something he’s identified in an interview as “Important” or “Political,” Myth Takes is about dancing. And partying. Also, getting laid. Okay, good, so the portion of my review where I discuss subjects of debatable importance, such as the album’s total lyrical and thematic content, is taken care of.

I’ve never really been one to favor sparse ambition with regards to the lyrics of non-instrumental bands. But if I were to spend any time concentrating on Offer’s lyrical contributions to !!! (which one would think might explain that pre-apocalyptic cover art, giant red herring that it is), there’d be less to distinguish between this and previous albums, which were also about dancing and etcetera. And I need to distinguish: Myth Takes is a taut culmination that may just tear dance floors asunder with its locomotive inexorability, but not before “All My Heroes Are Weirdos” or “Heart of Hearts” or damn near anything but the obligatory cool-down closer “Infiniford” causes a brief “what the fuck is this?” consumer reflex in everyone present. Without a doubt, this album is the best thing the band has ever done. To wish that Myth Takes were about more is a critic’s conundrum—there simply isn’t a lot to dissect, though there is a lot to like.

Despite their sprawling eight-piece lineup, the label-hopping !!!‘s self-titled debut (2001) and Louden Up Now (2004) seemed to have been the work of a band running with a genre-limited palette. The latter specifically depended on those omnipresent funk guitars, the occasional horns, and Offer’s particular brand of urban wisdom (“You could learn a lot / if you take your pants off”), constituting what sometimes seemed like an excuse to ensure the wide release of stupendous “Me and Giuliani Down By the Schoolyard (A True Story).” But Myth Takes has a renewed, expanded, and consistent vision of sound, and while this may have little or nothing to do with the recent disbanding of Offer, Pope and van der Volgen’s more electronically inspired Out Hud, it does sound in places like Myth Takes has absorbed that group. In the process the Chik combine their characteristic tawdry funk with a polish of character sounds, thus resulting in a multi-layered but purposeful dance record that’s one of the best (if not also “most fun”) new albums of the young 2007.

The finest moments of “All My Heroes Are Weirdos,” “Sweet Life,” and “Bend Over Beethoven” evoke Eno and Byrne’s polyrhythmic collaborations on seminal Talking Heads songs “I Zimbra” or “Born Under Punches”: tight grooves light of wasted moments or repetition for repetition’s sake. Throughout Myth Takes !!! reshuffle the crescendo from “Me and Giuliani” to explode again and again with fresh moments to stand arm-hair on end; on funk-metal “Bend Over,” they do it cleverly by way of old tricks (while steering the song relatively clear of RHCP territory, which admittedly creeps into sight during the riff-heavy chorus).

Myth Takes is also flawlessly sequenced. The opener-slash-title track warms up to the bombast and skyscraper-scaling guitars of “All My Heroes Are Weirdos,” which is sustained by the contagious bass stomp of “Must Be the Moon.” “Moon” itself is so listenable and fun that it either perfectly complements or completely offsets Offer’s New York tale of sexual conquest, depending on how high your tolerance is for listening to someone describe how “we did it on the bed / and we did it on the floor.” First single “Heart of Hearts,” a sleek, melodic centerpiece, smartly gets simple once again, in places more Out Hud than !!!. “Sweet Life,” too, does more with a chorus of “A / A / B / B / CCDD / CCDD” than I thought possible while the inverse Sunday of “Yadnus,” despite conjuring in its opening minute the wordless chant of Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll, Pt. 2” (you know the one), is an economical shuffle that thankfully outdistances its referent.

For all the time in recent weeks I’ve spent enjoying Myth Takes, listening to “All My Heroes” on repeat or “Bend Over Beethoven” in headphones, it can still be difficult to speak definitively as to why the album is any different from what the band has done before or why it’s so good. Everything that there is to like about !!! is just amplified, and Offer’s pruned (or maybe just incomprehensible) lyrics are no more sophomoric than usual, though perhaps still guilty of using genre as an excuse to baby-step through his nightly exploits. But fuck that, we’re over it. Raise your steins, friends, to the liberating power of the under-think, the temperament in which just one exclamation point is never enough.