It’s like seven a.m. The sun has begun to radiate through the grey cloud coverage over the city. It’s snowing and we’re swerving, barreling towards Bushwick via the Williamsburg Bridge in a royal blue El Camino. Smoke and ember tail out of the cracked windows. Angel Hair blares from the speakers, rumbling the plastic assembly of the dash. The driver asked me earlier if I had any suggestions while we sat idle in the cab for the engine to warm. “No, no,” I expressed. “This is your cockpit. Your sound system. Let’s listen to what you want to listen to.” Like I could help myself. Once we reach the edge of the bridge, I have my phone out. Waiting to jack in. Ready to compliment that vociferous-ass mid-’90s hate jostling our heads with some choice mint. Something a freshly powdered nose at dawn can really dig into. Equally as raw, equally as frenzied. Feral. All I know is that if you’re wheeling shotty in an El Camino, that fucking pick better be burning. This ain’t no Wes Anderson flick, my bud. It’s hardcore breakfast over the East River. And the lead track to Iceage’s latest, You’re Nothing, is the next song in the queue.
While Vår’s (Iceage vocalist/guitarist's side project) anti-sexual Audi commercial for “In Your Arms” had me reluctant to drinking the Elias Rønnenfeltand Kool-Aid–it’s shitty to find beauty and disgrace it with parody–I caught wind of the track “Ecstasy” off Iceage’s second album and Matador debut and took a big ‘ol swig from that Dixie cup. This, of course, is the same track I selected as navigatron (navigator of all things while stationed shotgun in a car) in that El Cam. That same track your kids may or may not try to turn you on to in a couple two-tree decades. Yeah, that fire. That raw cane sugar.
Now before I go into telling you why “Ecstasy” and the following track are great, there are other somethings about the Rønnenfeltand Kool-Aid to consider. We cited a post presenting Iceage as possibly being “Nazi symps” in our Best of February column, but little to nothing is proven in that article by Collapse Board. While the yellow world of assumption and speculation will persist, I’m not convinced. Sorry dude, you know who else incorporated the Iron Cross? Our boy Roy Orbison. While more specific to German military history (beyond WWII, ladies and gents), it’s still a symbol–like the swastika–that is used to varying degrees and effects. And, what? You can’t champion a convicted killer anymore? Watch out Phil Spector fans, judgement be rollin’ your way. Furthermore, have you really never seen an extended arm capped by a fist at a punk show? Granted, his doodles are rather, uh, sadomasochistic and Klu Klux Klany. Anyways, Iceage’s new album and how I’m fairly confident that their affiliation with deep-rooted whitey hate is sensationalism getting the best of imagination–you know, to be politically understanding and all that.
So, yeah that opening track “Ecstasy” is great. Those kids from Copenhagen who are barely legal enough to drink in the States really know how to stuff a complex vision into an effective three-part pop movement that will both satisfy Total Control and Thin Lizzy fans alike. I’ve never heard a wall of percussion and distortion contained so well under vocals. Effective production moves by the people who produced it: themselves. The tempo changes are jagged yet seamless, expressing a diverse passion and understanding of mood, hook and harmony. And Rønnenfeltand’s vocals have never sounded so good when drifting over that opening load of a wall like a hybrid of Tim Armstrong and Phil Lynott. While “Ecstasy” seems to be about drug abuse, it’s not about that kind of barbiturate. These guys aren’t taking prints of Molly on the reg–that’s rap’s trip right now. On the other hand it could simply be about the pressures and joys of success–I’m no insider, and it’s poetry.
The following tune “Coalition”, strikes more of the melodic side of hardcore found on their debut, New Brigade. Only, its production is far supreme to their debut, and the nuance of that shoegaze guitar line streaking underneath the verse makes their evolving variety of dour rock all the more provocative and appealing.
Unfortunately, the two opening tracks peak the record too early. The rest of You’re Nothing is separated by “Interlude”–a dark segue in the vein of No Age and Wavves’ (check Nouns and Wavvves, respectively) dissonant transitional ambient tracks–which comes off as gimmicky and militant. If you’re going to get experimental and fuck around, go for it. Now, if it was combined with–or led to–the song “Morals” it would work fairly well as an introduction into the rest of the album–being that “Morals” incorporates that militant snare beat and, taking on the form of a ballad, somewhat distances it from any style they’ve done before–but “Burning Hand” follows. Not to say that “Burning Hand” isn’t a par punk track or anything, it just creates a lull in the creative flow of the inspired and exciting opening combo.
Highlights like the surf punk “Everything Drifts”, the sole Danish-sung “Rodfæstet” or “Rooted”, and the closing title track–which sums up the overall feel of the album’s updated shoegaze-laden style of stress punk–dot the bulky second half of the album. If they were to shave the album down to eight songs, You’re Nothing would probably come off as flawless to both fans and critics. Regardless, more tracks to dig into isn’t such a faulty step to those hungry for Iceage’s sound.
For a band out of Denmark breathing new life into punk, this is a superior outing to their debut in sound and craft–despite it's dragging middle. Matador are no fools, and adding Iceage’s second album to their oeuvre is a sign of the band’s significance to not only the States but the banal state of “punk” innovation in these parts.
I mean, hey. It’s not too often that you get to introduce an experienced cat almost ten years your senior to something worth while in his ride. A dude from the late ‘90s hardcore scene, content with a selection outside his wheel house. In his El Camino. Knowing full well that that proceeding Rocket From the Crypt track could barely hold a light to that Danish pick.