Sounds Like: Schizophrenic dance punk, Public Image Ltd., ESG, Gang of Four.
Signature Lyrics: "They cut me up, they cut me up, they cut me up at the medical school," from "The Garden Was Crowded and Outside."
Making It Here: With one Australian (front man Angus Andrew) and one Californian (guitarist Aaron Hemphill) who met at art school in L.A., plus two guys from Nebraska (drummer Ron Albertson and bassist Pat Nature), the Liars are poster children for New York's art-punk scene -- four stylish twentysomething eccentrics making lots of noise in Brooklyn.
Sophomore Stump: "The idea is not to be pigeonholed too easily," says Andrew (who goes out with Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs). He's also said that when the Liars' second LP is released, "if people don't like us now, it's gonna get much worse." The band couldn't get much more abrasive than the ironic punk anthems of its debut, They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top.
Crowd Control: "We try to make the crowd feel comfortable -- like they could just as easily be up onstage, too," says Andrew, who's known for riling his audience into a frenzy. But no one's taken him up on the offer so far. "Maybe they think we're a little too violent?"
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Sounds Like: Sixties soul plus disco plus the New Orleans funk band the Meters -- all coming from a raucous group of eight white boys who like to dance.
Signature Lyrics: "A species so advanced / But we still just look like ants / So get down / It don't hurt to dance," from "There's No Fucking Rules, Dude."
All The Wrong Moves: The members of !!! met at art school in Sacramento and did something daring for 1996 -- they started a band paying homage to James Brown, Marvin Gaye, and disco icons Chic. "We knew we wouldn't get it right, but we hoped when we got it wrong, it would sound good," says 29-year-old singer Nic Offer (third from left, above). "But our shows went miserably; people didn't know what to think and were rude about it."
And A Smart One: In 2000, some members of !!! decided to move to New York. "When we told people, they were like, 'There's nothing happening there! You can rule it!,' " says Offer.
Say What? The name !!! is supposed to be pronounced as any three repetitive sounds. But the band's new label, Touch and Go, wants them to officially adopt the pronunciation chik chik chik. A defiant Offer says that you can call them anything you want -- except, of course, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
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Sounds Like: The Cure goes disco.
Signature Lyrics: "Get yourself together / Shake shake shake shake / Take it all off," from "Out of the Races and Onto the Tracks."
You Can Dance If You Want To: Minor chords, major feedback, and lead singer Luke Jenner's tortured wailing may not make the band a pop success, but its punkish lyrics and pounding house rhythms have placed it at the top of the dance-rock scene.
They're Huge Overseas . . . Really: The Rapture was recently invited to perform at the Sex Pistols' reunion tour in Europe. "There were a lot of beefy punk dudes there, and they were telling us to get off the stage," says bassist Matt Safer. "But once we started playing, they calmed down. And playing for 22,000 people -- while John Lydon's walking around making faces at you -- it was great."
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Sounds Like: Think deadpan David Byrne. Ironic, mocking vocals, but set to a driving electro beat.
Signature Lyrics: "Nobody's getting any play / It's the saddest night out in the U.S.A.," from "Beat Connection."
Disco Sucks! (Well, Sort Of): "Being a punk-rock kid, I didn't see the point of dance music," says James Murphy (a.k.a. LCD Soundsystem), who got into the dance scene late -- 1999, to be exact. A professional hook-up with producer Tim Goldsworthy and some eye-opening club experiences changed that. Aside from putting out two clever tracks ("Beat Connection" and "Losing My Edge") that have rocked dance floors all year, Murphy produces acts like the Rapture and Radio 4.
Electro Overload: "Electroclash is a broad gesture that people can latch on to, which makes for a lot of embarrassing fashion and bad music," says Murphy. "The stuff that's good will grow. The stuff that's not will just die."
Sounds Like: The Clash, Gang of Four.
Signature Lyrics: "Who'd have thought disease could be passé / It's looking like it turned out that way / Well, someone needs to start a fire here," from "Start a Fire."
Beat Street: A collaboration with beat-friendly indie label DFA has taken the Brooklyn rockers to the dance floor. "We didn't say, 'Let's make this dancier'; that's kind of just where our heads were at," says bassist-singer Anthony Roman.
Political Party: While some critics have dismissed Radio 4's second album, Gotham!, as too derivative of, say, Gang of Four, fans rave about the group's fierce energy and irony-free politics. "Some people call us disco-punk, funk -- I don't know," says Roman. "I just know that it sounds good in a nightclub."
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