– It seems like every year finds a plucky new batch of nihilistic 20-somethings eager to overthrow the radio-friendly tyranny of pop punk, but Iceage could very well be the real deal.Image: Cover art for ‘You’re Nothing.’ (Matador Records)By David Von Nordheim, A&E Editor for The Current
It seems like every year finds a plucky new batch of nihilistic 20-somethings eager to overthrow the radio-friendly tyranny of pop punk, but Iceage could very well be the real deal. The Danish no wave revivalists, debuting in 2011 with the vicious “New Brigade,” seem determined to excise the “post” from “post-hardcore.” Boasting a production standard primal and savage enough to peel the sheen off even the most radio-friendly punk poseur, the refreshingly primitive album was one of the year’s finest debuts. (The fact that not a single member of the band was old enough to legally drink in the United States at the time of its recording made the feat all the more impressive.)
The two years since their debut’s release has clearly done nothing to brighten the group’s outlook, and their sophomore release, the deliciously titled “You’re Nothing,” finds the group continuing the assault from exactly where they left off.
“You’re Nothing” clips by at a brisk 12 tracks in 29 minutes, the longest cut being the three-and-a-half-minute “Burning Hand.” Other than a few sparse synthesizer interludes throughout, each track careens into the next with breakneck abandon, giving listeners precious little time to steel themselves for the next sonic thrashing. The end result is an album entirely devoid of wasted space, a swift and satisfying kick in the head.
Given the album’s gut-wrenching abruptness, it is best viewed as one grand, furious suite of cynical noise rock rather than as a collection of individual tracks. Jagged, angular guitars pierce through the suffocating mix, fighting for air against the frantic, anarchic blast-beat drumming propelling the album to its bitter detente. The effect is not so much repetitive as pummeling, assaulting and battering the listener into uncomfortable numbness.
Although the harshness of “You’re Nothing” could easily become exhausting in less capable hands, Iceage has a terrific sense of dynamic that prevents the album from devolving into an exercise in musical masochism. The group has a terrific sense of dynamic, evidenced on the martial drumming and feedback hisses on the album’s eerie “Interlude” and the unsettling, piano-driven “Morals.” “You’re Nothing” shows Iceage expanding their gutbucket aesthetic into more nuanced, but still appreciably unsettling, territory.
Although the signature mope and murk of Joy Division has been endlessly revived, murdered and revived again over the years, Iceage draws their post-punk nihilism from more subtle sources (although their nom de guerre is ostensibly cribbed from the Joy Division single of the same name). A clear point of reference is the breakneck attack popularized by groups like Wire, a band whose affinity for succinctness has clearly rubbed off on Iceage. Poland’s Siekiera, the coldest of the so-called cold-wave bands, is another emissary of the distinctly eastern European strain of nihilistic art-punk Iceage pays homage to.
“You’re Nothing” is everything a follow-up release should be: it expands the uncompromising bleakness of Iceage’s debut, adding even more shades of grey to their monochromatic palette. If their excellent sophomore release is any indication, Iceage will not be thawing any time soon. Long live the New Brigade!
© The Current