Owen Richards

Yo, yo! You may have noticed this, too: The practice of repeating a word in a band name seems to have increased in the last decade or so, much to some people's chagrin. It's become an annoying tic; the verbal repetition suggests a dearth of imagination, and it always reminds me of a pertinent—and great/grate—Cabaret Voltaire track: "Nag Nag Nag." (I'm looking at you, Yeah Yeah Yeahs.) Perhaps this trend has burgeoned as a means for recording artists to distinguish themselves amid the teeming mobs clogging up the Googlesphere. Whatever the case, this habit makes me grumpy grumpy.

That being said, some bands with OCD-ish handles are worth your time time. Nice Nice, for instance. The Portland group—who are approximately twice as nice as the Nice—have a fantastic new album, Extra Wow (Warp), a title that's as well-earned as its creators' name. Jason Buehler and Mark Shirazi of Nice Nice are musical omnivores, voraciously consuming styles like Afrobeat, post rock, psychedelia, space rock, and minimalism, and then manifesting distinctive variations on them.

This approach could come off as dilettantism, of course, but Nice Nice possess too much cosmic consciousness, brilliant instinct, and just sheer talent to succumb to generic regurgitation. Instead, Extra Wow is a Boredoms-­esque kosmische bouillabaisse of a record, moving from manic to motivational to meditational in 13 mostly instrumental tracks. If Battles and Tyondai Braxton impressed you, then you need to spend quality time with Extra Wow, which packs just as much excitement as those recent Warp releases, but with even more diversity and transcendent peaks.

Now that we've established Nice Nice's superiority and let them off the hook for the nomenclature duplication, let's look at some of history's best musical acts with redundancies built into their names. I'm only going to tell you twice (okay, maybe thrice).

Liquid Liquid: Post punk's funkiest funkateers and slickest cowbell virtuosos, Liquid Liquid ironically were one of the fieriest bands of the 1980s. They stripped down funk to its earthy essence and made that skeleton dance enticingly. Liquid Liquid's eternally flaming torch is being carried by several younger bands, but as a recent performance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon evidenced, Liquid Liquid can still bring the polyrhythmic heat.

Medium Medium: Hailing from Wales, Medium Medium are mostly known for their 1981 underground club smash "Hungry, So Angry." A distinctly British way of dancing oneself out of one's constrictions, the song is a perfect fusion of funk and angst, its thrusting bass line ideally suited to the rhythms of a hate fuck. (Not that I'd know anything about that sort of thing. Just speculating here.)

!!!: Here is one band, at least, that refutes critic Sasha Frere-Jones's claim in his essay "A Paler Shade of White" that Caucasian indie rockers don't/can't swing. !!! (chk chk chk) inject punk vigor and attitude in their sinuous, extended funk workouts and Euro-American Afrobeat approximations. In live settings especially, !!! earn their exclamation points and hip swivels. That they can cover songs by both the Magnetic Fields and Nate Dogg, and make them sound both reverent and different, attests to !!!'s flexible skills.

Talk Talk: Specifically for the albums Spirit of Eden (1988) and Laughing Stock (1991), Talk Talk deserve a lofty place in the pantheon. Evolving from their earlier phase as a chart-dwelling new-wave/mope-pop band, these Brits ascended to a rarefied, sublime strain of soul-jazz balladry. It was if a vocalist—that would be Mark Hollis—who combined the best traits of Scott Walker and Van Morrison had joined Miles Davis's band in the early 1970s and reimagined In a Silent Way as an ethereal, end-of-one's-tether blues minimalism.

Allez Allez: A multiracial group out of Brussels, Belgium, Allez Allez played elegantly danceable new-wave rock of which, you can be certain, the DFA production crew are fans. The eponymous "Allez Allez" and "African Queen" (a tribute to Grace Jones) humidified clubs in the early 1980s, and it's no surprise that modern-day heavies like Optimo, Lindstrøm & Prins Thomas, and Quiet Village have remixed Allez Allez tracks.

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Duran Duran Duran: This Philadelphia producer's insanity-inducing gabba/drill & bass provides a crushing soundtrack for pummeling Simon Le Bon and Nick Rhodes.

The xx: A much-hyped London trio that proves that subtlety and understatement can penetrate quasi-mainstream ears. The xx's melancholic melodiousness and soft-centered romanticism somehow landed them on some of the world's biggest festival stages. High-quality, lowercase electro pop has found its unassuming figureheads. Hear, hear. recommended

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