Album Review – Iceage, New Brigade
New Brigade starts with a 47 second noise intro and then the first song “White Rune” erupts with a marching bass drum and snare hits while reverberated and short-delayed guitars stutter away, giving rise to thundering tom hits. Fifty more seconds and out of the no-wave sludge a clean punk riff emerges, all the while the snarling singer beckons for attention. Two minutes in and the sweetest breakdown I have heard in years slinks its way to the foreground. The feedback suddenly cuts out a minute later and the song is over. Seriously, sit down with a pair of quality headphones, listen to the song, and try to stop from smiling when the breakdown starts. I couldn’t. Iceage are four teens from Denmark who have garnered a cult following in their home country and are beginning to make waves across the blogsphere. If the stories and pictures are to be believed, the band sounds and looks like they put on one crazy, blood soaked, sweaty show. With their first LP, New Brigade, we get the best punk/post-punk/no-wave/fun record of the year or perhaps the last couple years or maybe even the decade. And I know you think I’m just contributing to the hype, but I mean it when I say that Iceage do more with 24 minutes on New Brigade than some bands do in their whole career.I’m a sucker for this kind of music. It’s right up my alley. I can hear the punk influences of bands like the Wire and the Clash mixing with the dark tones of Joy Division and the no-wave screech of DNA. But — in addition to those two sides of the band’s sound — there’s a certain playfulness that reminds me of the Liars’ best work. I’ll stop with the comparisons in fear of accidently turning someone off of New Brigade with my musical juxtaposing because, while this band clearly has influences, they’re also forging their own path.
Check out the dark atmospheric pounding of “Rotting Heights” or the fantastic squealing reverb guitar lead on “Collapse.” The closing track “You’re Blessed” sounds like a long-lost Clash standard that gets broken in two halfway through, thrown in a sonic blender, and poured back out.
I can’t say Iceage has all their kinks worked out yet. There is a little over-reliance on the standard punk structure and I’d love to see these guys slow the tempo down and explore some of the brooding space they’ve created, but this is still one hell of a starting point for a group of 17 year olds.
If you like punk music at all, if you like being surprised by clever song writing, if you like being proven wrong — listen to New Brigade. I know it sucks to be reminded that a few punk kids in Denmark can write better songs than you ever will but, hey, at least you can put on New Brigade and sulk around your bedroom to some great tunes.