France's finest punks mature. They're still as heavy as a house and as smoky dense as an ashcan fire, but what they're interested in now is a unique, Zen-like repetition, a mantra-like weirdness, in a valiant, successful effort to set themselves apart from the rest of the three-chord squad (during punk revival times). It's as if, over the course of ten years, they've graduated from the Buzzcocks of "Love Battery" and "I Need" to the Buzzcocks of "Something's Gone Wrong Again" and "Strange Thing." As with that group's fascinating progression, it's not that these Thugs have abandoned hooks, melodies, and chord progressions, it's more that they've made them so obtuse that you have to come get them now (a goal well accomplished by picking the uncompromising Steve Albini as producer). This is particularly true on the highlights, "Summer," "Assez," and "Waiting," but the meditative title track is the oddest of all, a slow, stoned-out deliberation on the workers' (and slackers') weapon that says everything and nothing. Perhaps no one song here is as satisfying as the best of their past (such as 1994's hot "As Happy As Possible") but, on the whole, Strike is more ambitious and thus it sticks.