GREAT DANES

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….

“Dear SWC

How about an ICA?

Yours most sincerely

JC”

IN PRAISE OF….. DENMARK

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Another quality and imaginative contribution from S-WC.

In a few weeks’ time Mrs S-WC, Princess S-WC and I are heading off to Copenhagen for a few days to celebrate my 40th birthday. I’m not that fussed about being 40, its just another year after all but last night Mrs S-WC dropped the surprise trip on me and now I am really looking forward to going to Denmark and celebrating my 40th in a place that I’ve never been to there before. I have read nothing but good reviews of the place and Copenhagen is supposed to be one of the most child friendly cities on the planet. It also happens to be the home of one of the best music scenes on the planet and all the time I spent endlessly waffling on about the ‘Danish Scene’ appears not to have been wasted. She was pretending to be completely uninterested, how do women do that?

So let’s rewind back to 2011 and if like me you are in anyway interested in indie rock then you would have probably stumbled across New Brigade the debut LP by four Copenhagen teenagers called Iceage. This record singlehandedly put Danish indie rock on the map. ‘New Brigade’ also introduced Iceage to a wider world and in my opinion it is nearly a perfect record, 24 minutes of wailing, bromance and gothic charm, the Guardian described it as ‘A yobbish Joy Division’ and they are spot on, as usual.

mp3 : Iceage – White Rune

The immediate problem is that nearly every band that came out of Denmark was labelled the ‘new Iceage’and record companies fell over themselves to ‘find them’. Over in Denmark though, the best bands in Iceage’s circle such as Lower and Sexdrome, made such bleak and brutal rock that they had almost no visible commercial value, well not to the UK and US Markets at least. All Lower want to do is destroy your eardrums, I mean, they are fantastically brutal but they are not Iceage Mark 2.

mp3 : Lower – Craver

Let’s come back to 2015, and an awful lot has changed, Denmark is blooming and nearly every week there is a new band from Denmark that is generating a buzz of hype. This weeks thing are Yung, they hail from Aarhus the (I think) second biggest city in Denmark. Their debut record Alter has shown that not all bands from Denmark have to sound like Iceage.  ‘Alter’ is jangly indie pop with just a dash of spikiness thrown in. In the last couple of years noir-ish Danish TV programmes have been all the rage and Yung appear to have tapped into that with the video for lead track Nobody Cares – they basically mess around on cold looking dock and we half expect a lady in a knitted jumper to start investigating.

mp3 : Yung – Nobody Cares

Like I said the developing scene is not all about Iceage soundalikes, take Communions for example, they are perhaps the band most like Iceage in their looks but they sound like The Stone Roses just after Sally Cinnamon was released (ie when they were really good). Their debut EP Cobblestones is outstanding and something I thoroughly recommend to you all, I am quite excited by Communions, they could produce something really special.

mp3 : Communions – Cobblestones

I should perhaps point out, that even Iceage don’t actually sound like Iceage anymore, – the closest thing I can liken it too is when Idlewild released American English which sounded like REM rather the early Fugazi inspired records – the last Iceage record Plowing Into the Field of Love has a distinct alt country feel to it and to be honest it sounds a lot like the Libertines circa Up The Bracket, which obviously is a very very good thing indeed. There were not many better records released last year than ‘Plowing Into the Field of Love’.

mp3 : Iceage – The Lords Favourite

I hope you all enjoy the tracks that I have posted – and as ever I’ll be interested in what you all think.

S-WC

FROM THE SOUTH-WEST CORRESPONDENT..WHAT’S IN YOUR BOX (20)

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There is a tiny Scottish feeling to this weeks column.

Firstly, I have just read that every year more than 1000 people placed a bet this year that the football score East Fife 5 Forfar 4 will occur. This genuinely made my choke on my cereal. 5 -4 scorelines in football are rare – even rarer when two teams with names that sound slightly like the numbers play each other. If you ask me that is 1000 people with far too much time on their hands. Although I do imagine that if the scoreline does occur, the BBC would probably eat itself with excitement.

Secondly the CD of choice this week was from Octopus a band from Aberdeen who signed to Food Records (home of Blur and Jesus Jones) in the mid 90s.

They were a mid table indie band with a liking for big choruses. Sadly, when I put the CD in the machine it refused to play. Which is a shame because this is a belter of a record, I remember it well and always thought that it should have reached much higher in the charts than it did. When it came out, I had a guest reviewing the singles with me and after we listened to this, with its trumpet inspired chorus we had a small chat about the use of brass in singles and whether this was a good thing or not, we decided pretty much as long as they didn’t ruin the song it was ok (so you’d better but the bugle down down Mr Mumford). My guest reviewer loved this song (understandably) and described it memorably as ‘a brass blessed beauty rather than a trumpet troubled turd’. I gave him an extra pork pie for the wonder of his alliteration alone.

I’d loved to post this song but can’t post it, my only hope is that JC has it earmarked for his Scottish Single Series because your lives (well your ears at least) will be all the better for hearing it.

(JC adds…..I do have the track via one of those indie compilations that were all the rage in the Britpop era….and while S-WC is quick to sing its praises, I’m more inclined to say that it’s a very fine Oasis tribute.)

mp3 : Octopus – Your Smile

So instead of that I have done a random shuffle on my iPod (Classic 3rd Gen, 8830 songs) and will post the first three songs that come on. So first up we have: –

Oooh allow me a moment here ‘TUNE’ – ‘Arena’ – Suuns. Suuns are a Canadian band that sprang to our attention a few backs with their debut album ‘Zeroes QC’. This was to be was the standout track from that album. It has a kind of space rock feel to it as it whooshes along magically. ‘Zeroes QC’ comes highly recommended as well. They released a second album last year ‘Images du Futur’ which to be honest wasn’t as good.

mp3 : Suuns – Arena

Second song – my iPod is being kind to you all this morning ‘Coalition’ – Iceage.  Iceage, are a Danish punk band, and they rock like bastards. Fiercely independent and with a strong fan based ethic they have released two albums quite quietly in the last couple of years, the second ‘You’re Nothing’ was an absolute treasure of a record, it’s all done and dusted in about 35 minutes but it leaves you breathless, great shouty, simple, spiky punk rock. They also sing occasionally in Danish which is a rare treat. If you like Iceage (and you should) I recommend you check out Metz (another great Canadian band) and Radkey who do similar things in a shouty manner.

mp3 : Iceage – Coalition

Finally, aah lovely, ‘Aerial’ – Four Tet – this is taken from last years ‘Beautiful Rewind’ album. I’ve said before that I love Four Tet and think that the brains behind it Kieron Hebden is a genius (NME people if you are reading – here is a Godlike Genius you should celebrate don’t waste your time with Blondie, you fools). Four Tet make beautiful music, rarely do they release a bad record. If you check out their website there are also regularly loads of free downloads of mixtapes (one just last week, an hour of free dance music) and other bits and pieces. If you are not familiar with Four Tet, the best place to start is ‘Rounds’ that is an album that deserves to sit in anyones Top 50 ever. Radiohead fans should check out their remix of Skttrbrain’ too.

mp3 : Four Tet – Aerial

See you next week hopefully with a CD that plays!

JC adds again……
That’s the first time any of those four bands have appeared on this or the previous blog, so thanks again to S-WC for broadening mine and maybe some of your horizons. I have previously featured that Radiohead remix that was mentioned:

mp3 : Radiohead – Skttrbrain (Four Text Remix)

Enjoy!!