Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Iceage - New Brigade (2011) REVIEW

(Post)-Punk is pretty hot these days, bands are popping up everywhere like mushrooms, mostly from the West Coast, with the rather chaotic HEALTH, the more tropical tinged Abe Vigoda, the guitar-and-drums duo No Age or the snotty slackers Wavves, and the list could get on forever. Everyone of these bands are trying to bring something new, something fresh, while keeping the music cohesive and enjoyable, to a 'genre' which is nevertheless more than 30 years old, but none of them have succeeded to be really convincing throughout an entire album. While most of the attention from critics and audiences alike were focused on that part of the world, the West Coast, the real surprise came from the other side of the world, over the Atlantic Ocean, just between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea : Copenhagen, Denmark. Four young 17 years old lads founded Iceage in 2008 and barely three years later, on January 2011, their debut album "New Brigade" is released... in Denmark only. Six months later, June 21, the album appeared in the US. And the band will have to wait 5 months more to see their album reviewed in Spookrijder. I apologize for the delay.

"New Brigade" contains 12 tracks, the whole album remains under the 25 minutes mark, the longest song "Never Return" lasts a bit over 3 minutes, but despite the shortness of each song there is enough going on to make each of them pretty epic momenta. The material is recorded raw, most of the songs are devoid of traditional verse/chorus structures, the chords are dissonant, but inside this very atonal, abrasive and at times poly-rhythmic tension there are hooks and even melodies to be found, and this is one of the miracle of this album. The other day, I lazily described Iceage's music to a friend as some "fucked up Wire" to which I received the answer "so like The Fall", but if this answer makes complete sense it doesn't apply to Iceage because they absolutely don't sound like The Fall, they're actually closer to a no wave mix of Wire and Warsaw (the band before Joy Division), but this would be just to give a slight idea of their sound. Concerning the song structure and the musicianship, I'm rather at the loss. Indeed, under the apparent recklessness there seems to be some huge discipline and focus in the composition of all the tracks as much as in the very way they are performed by the band, with a special mention for a hell of a rhythm section. The result shows some impressive cohesiveness and density of execution which is very seldom witnessed in the punk idiom. The closest comparison at hands would be Trumans Water, if anyone remembers, but a very tight version of them which is devoid of the simplistic pseudo-Beefheartian riffage and unconventional rhythms, Trumans Water always sounded like they were just rehearsing while Iceage sounds rehearsed.

No matter what, don't expect a complete novelty project, Iceage wouldn't be out of context alongside post-punk and no wave bands of the early 80s but they bring something authentic and invigorating to a lately very usurped if still vivid music genre. All in all, a short but powerful, authentic,direct and thrilling album from this very promising Danish band. Let's hope they won't be swallowed by the hype... because hype there is.

7.5 out of 10

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