Me and Giuliani Down By The Schoolyard
Touch and Go
t’s a sad state of affairs for pop music in the year 2003, as a bunch of white dudes cop Thin Lizzy, try to shift from The Fall-cum-Stockton to OK Computer, and bring New Wave back to the States via Canada. Nearly halfway through the year, the albums that stand out most are those that create vivid, lush soundscapes and come out the other side with nothing to say.
Now, I don’t really know anything about !!!, other than the fact that they’re one of a precious few NME-hyped bands to come from California and not New York, and that the group is composed of eight out-of-shape men who look more like the Har Mar Superstar than Julian Casablancas. But simply put, Me and Giuliani Down By The Schoolyard is the most wildly inventive, exploratory, unafraid, surprising, nonsensical, and flat out funkiest single I’ve heard all year.
Like the Stone Roses’ "Fools Gold", "Me and Giuliani" abounds in sun-dried funk. A snarky bassline rolls throughout each, eventually spiraling into a higher-toned rave-up ending, climaxing with wild percussion and nonsensical lyrical offerings from the mouth of each group’s lead singer.
But unlike the Stone Roses 9 minute-53 second odyssey, "Me and Giuliani" doesn’t ditch its lead singer halfway through and cop out every so often for a bridge/coda/whatever. While "Fools Gold" may be the dirtiest and most trance-inducing acid house rock song to emerge from Madchester, "Me and Giuliani" is a track that doesn’t let up, constantly shifting gears to snap you out of that trance and that slow-burning groove ... and shake some ass. The one constant that refuses to give up is the memorable bass line that keeps popping up, but amidst the "everybody cut / everybody cut / everybody cut loose / and shake that butt" and the falsetto "do do do do do-o-o-o"’s, horns peek their heads in, guitar spikes abound a la Madchester, and just like the Roses, drums spill on top of each other in hyper-syncopated, throbbing glory. "Fools Gold" might hook you harder and make it damn near impossible to stop dancing, but this track is just as disorienting with headphones as it is on the dance-floor. Simply put, it’s an endlessly exciting ride.
For nearly ten minutes the title track attacks, constantly adding and pulling around Nic Offer's delightfully lame lyrics. "I do believe that every single moment ... every single piggie ... must move it"—yeah whatever. As the horns stab at Offer’s Casanova-gone-Apeman delivery, guitars slowly rise in and bring the track to the next section. The bass line—a bubbling Happy Mondays rip—lurches to a stunted fill, now coloring the attack of bass drum, snare, electric drums, and wild acid house flavor.
And as the drum assault suddenly reverts back to the opening oozy skank, Offer delivers that wonderful falsetto again. And the guitar spikes come back. And then what sounds like Caribbean marimba appears. Then there’s something that sounds like a bird. And so on and so on, and by the time the track is over, the guitars have reverbed all over each other, giving way to a hand-percussion climax, and that falsetto again! , and then it’s over. Damn it.
By comparison, the next track, a remix of an older !!! track, "Intensifier," seems positively mundane, despite all the electronic gurgles and recording breakdowns that herald the fact that, yes, this is indeed a remix. Hordes of Offer’s intone "can you feel it intensify?" over one another, and sexy lazy s-sounds roll over you as more Offer’s keep popping up—like you’re in a giant !!! orgy or something. And it does feel good—especially as Offer feigns orgasm all over the place, making you uncomfortable at first, and then really dirty, and then just relieved, like you’ve had your own sonic jack-off session—but the track’s relatively minimalist instrumentation makes you kind of ask "why bother?" after the colossal mindfuck of the first track. But still enjoyable? God yes.
Reviewed by: Sam Bloch
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01