The New York band !!! have hit upon a fresh concept that I hope catches on: They served as their own opening act, renaming themselves Stereolad in order to play a set of Stereolab covers last night at the Crocodile. Clever! And fun, especially if you’re a fan of the defunct British band who ruled a certain cosmopolitan sector of the rock underground in the ’90s and ’00s with their suave take on krautrock, Tropicalia, yé-yé, and other hip styles. Surprisingly, !!! totally inhabited Stereolab’s modus operandi, even if frontman Nic Offer’s brohemian demeanor isn’t exactly well-suited to ’lab diva Lætitia Sadier’s haughty onstage poise. But he gamely got into the role, donning a thigh-length light-blue and white sleeveless dress that was way frumpier than anything Sadier would wear and speaking with a faux-French accent between songs. “You know what they say,” Offer said coquettishly after Stereolad had executed a perfect version of “Lo Boob Oscillator,” Stereolab’s 1993 7-inch on Sub Pop, “If you can remember the ’90s, you weren’t there.”
Stereolad also tore through “French Disko,” “Our Trinitone Blast,” "Jenny Ondioline,” “The Noise of Carpet,” and "Pack Yr Romantic Mind" with a joie de vivre that thr!!!ed the packed club. Jesus, were they tight. Not sure how much time they devoted to this seeming lark, but the band members replicated Sterelab’s streamlined amphetamine torque with utmost attention to detail. They utterly nailed the Neu!-like motorik rhythm and keyboard-heavy drone coda to “Lo Boob Oscillator”—no (Tim) Gane, no pain. These noise bursts may have been transient and random, but the crowd lapped ’em up.
Ordinarily, that set would’ve been enough for most people to go home satiated on a Tuesday night. But !!! returned to the stage with Meah Pace, a female backing vocalist possessed of rich tones and great dance moves and took the night to a yet higher level of revelry. Let’s just get this out of the way now: !!! are the best straight (I think!) white cis male disco band in the country right now. Their performance leaned heavily on the new As If album and there was mass movement on the floor the entire time. One guy danced with Christmas lights draped over his shoulders, audience members' hands rarely didn't shoot skyward, and "woo"s from the crowd multiplied like crazy. "Must Be the Moon," indeed.
Offer often walked and shimmied on the precariously slender separator/cupholder that juts out onto the Croc’s floor and mugged for the adoring throng. While !!!'s ruggedly salacious disco is pure party dynamite, it’s hugely augmented by Offer’s charisma and his almost Andrew W.K.-esque will to hedonism. He’s like a geeky, Caucasian James Brown figure, a world-class motivator come to help us all forget our worries (of which there are too many) and cleanse ourselves in the honest sweat that !!! tracks generate. That one of their best songs namechecks the loathsome Rudy Giuliani in its title makes the band all that more magical.