The boys at The Sound of Being OK, and in particular SWC, have been extolling the virtues of Iceage for quite a few years.
Some of you might well be asking who? Well, the fact of the matter is that SWC is a rather talented writer, so much so that he once held a gig with Melody Maker before growing up and joining the real world, getting married, having kids and embarking on a career in which every day is a true-life adventure.
Oh you mean Iceage? Sorry…………….
Iceage are a Danish punk rock band from Copenhagen. They were formed in 2008, when the members of the band averaged 17 years old. Elias Bender Rønnenfelt does vocals and guitar, Johan Surrballe Wieth plays guitar and provides backing vocals, Jakob Tvilling Pless plucks the bass and Dan Kjær Nielsen bangs the drums.
Debut album New Brigade was issued by Danish label Tambourhinoceros and by Dais Records in the United States in early 2011. They created a bit of a buzz, leading to them signing with Matador Records for whom they have released a further three albums, including Beyondless which made a number of ‘best of’ lists at the end of 2018.
I took the plunge and bought a CD copy of Beyondless with some of my Santa money. It wasn’t quite what I expected, being something of a curate’s egg with, once or twice, the bombast coming across a bit like Scandic Kasabian (which sounds like a condition for which you should go seek advice from your doctor).
On the other hand, it is quite special in other places, bringing to mind the ambition and variety of early Bad Seeds, but with increased levels of power and energy, thanks in part to a crisp production, but mainly as a result of the sonic vocal delivery from Rønnenfelt, whose influences feel like many – I could, at varying times, detect, Iggy Pop, Ian Curtis, Peter Murphy and Andrew Eldritch. But I have to quickly say that Beyondless is not a gloom-laden gothic record….how can it be when so many moments are lit up with horns, piano, strings and impish percussion?
The album opens with two jaunty and, dare I say it, danceable, tracks that I’m willing to now rate as among my favourite bits of music from 2018:-
mp3 : Iceage – Hurrah
mp3 : Iceage – Pain Killer
The latter is one of those on which the horns are used to great effect, as is the guest backing vocal from American starlet Sky Ferreira (and yes, I had to look her up to find out more…..if I had teenage kids, I could have just asked them).
Things don’t quite match the 1-2 pounding that comes straight from the bell, and indeed Under The Sun, the third track on the album, proves to be one of the weakest and least memorable moments, not even providing that annoying Kasabian-style hook to hang something upon (such as ill-defined and inexplicable prejudice), leading to a what I initially felt was a bit of a mid-album dip.
But….here’s the thing…..it’s an album with a number of songs that, on the first few listens, don’t seem to amount to all that much but ultimately prove to be pieces of music which provide an enormous amount of satisfaction. I think my initial issue was that I kept waiting on something as ‘light’ and accessible as the opening couple of songs, but that never quite happened. Instead, there’s an ever-changing tempo, groove and mood throughout which had an initially unsettling effect, especially as the band was more or less new to me, but which proved to be a strength on the fourth, fifth and successive listens. It can be difficult nowadays, what with trying to write a daily blog and lead a busy life at work and play, to afford an album the time and space it sometimes needs to make the impact. I’m glad I did it with this one.
There is one other genuinely jaw dropping part of Beyondless anmd it’s when they go all cabaret on us:-
mp3 : Iceage – Thieves Like Us
Great fun. And I will more than likely get round to getting the earlier albums. In the meantime….
How about an ICA?
Yours most sincerely