Sunday, June 26, 2011

Iceage: New Brigade

      These guys are an aggressive noise-rock Danish group, with 'New Brigade' just released as their debut album. Weighing in at twenty-four minutes, there is something captivating about this record, despite it's arguably short play time. It demands your attention with it's mash-up of genres that  do mash-up amazingly well. It's a downer. It's a rainy day lp. It could be considered a no-wave album, with it's abrasive and rebellious swagger. It's older Joy Divison-esque. It's noisy. It's uncontrived. It's simply lovable and fantastic!
     With all these different tones, and considering the relatively short length for an album, you would be mistaken for assuming that the sound would be messy and confused. On the contrary however, the record wears proudly the badge for cohesion, with all the emotions nailed into the same wall with an angry enthusiasm that's hard to snub. Variety-wise as well, these teenagers emulate a maturity beyond their years. They mix exactly the right amounts of instrumentation and singing, loud and quiet, to create a record radical and yet faithful to the genre, radiating a breathless, reckless charm.
     The album opens with a vocal-less intro that thuds and thunders, the groaning echoes of demonic beasts building to a climax overcast and moody. The real opener, and star of the show, 'White Rune', is noisy in slapping a coat of garage aggression upon the shield of the band's Joy Division influences. The warm bass throbs and the vocals are apathetic in their slurred passion. The hook is great. The melody is surrounded by this gritty guitar and pounding drum beat. It's a confident album starter, to say the least, and one I admire!
     'New Brigade' leads on from 'White Rune's squealing reverb finish, and is the track from whence the record title is taken. For me, though, it's not the best, despite it's jittering and tense feeling sonically. 'Remember', however, is strangely uplifting in parts, which contrasts ever so nicely with the tracks surrounding it, like rain in a sweltering summer. 'Total Drench' spins and spins in a headache inducing rollercoaster of sound. The guitar and chord progressions on 'Broken Bone' fall into a steady lo-fi groove, even with lyrics muffled by the backing track. 'Count Me In' is furious in it's speed, smudging the line between thrash and punk to form a crazy mess, but a mess executed perfectly. All these songs contribute towards the twelve track emotional roar that this album encapsulates.
     'Never Return' marks the end of the record, and at three minutes is the longest track here. Despite this, I don't feel as though the time isn't as well spent as during other songs. The builds and climaxes are good, and the balance mentioned before is still prominent, but I'm kinda of the mind that the same effect could have been achieved in less time. This wasted time could have been instead given over to 'You're Blessed', which finishes the album on a fabulous high. As I listened, I couldn't shift the fact that this song, and the prolonged notes in particular reminded me of another track from a different album. As I pondered, the answer came to me. 'Mr. Driver', from the Black Lip's lp, 'Arabia Mountain'. That song and this sound amazingly alike, but seeing as in my mind you can't get enough of a good thing, the comparison didn't bother me long. And that's that. Record over.
     At the end I was left breathless, and immediately went back to the beginning to hit play. If you're intent on listening to 'New Brigade', I suggest turning the volume up on a cloudy evening and sitting by a campfire. Feel the heat warm your cheeks and the honest, passionate post-punk from Iceage warm your heart. A stunning collection of songs that breath new life into an ignored genre, mixing styles to create one all their own. Inspiring.