Iceage – “You’re Nothing”
Around every February, the largest summer festivals in the world begin to announce line-ups of everyone’s favorite musical acts. But a strange trend has happened in 2013 for festivals from Coachella to Bonnaroo: reunions. The major headliners are a rehashing of bands that peaked way before Y2K. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love old music. Records from The Stone Roses, Blur, as well as Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds/Grinderman are crowning jewels in my record collection, but in all honesty they hold more sentimental value than newer records I can really sink my teeth into. With these reunions playing the cherry on top of the delicious musical sundae extravaganzas that are summer music festivals, we must ask the question: are these reunions what the music world needs to flourish and stay strong? Bands like Iceage would disagree.
Iceage is a Danish quartet that embodies everything youthful and angsty that true punk music should possess. Iceage brings together driving punk rock, depressed post-punk, and frantic hardcore in a collection of songs that could easily fall apart in a fit of anxiety. You’re Nothing is Iceage’s sophomore effort on Matador Records, which follows their debut record New Brigade. Upon the release of their first LP, the group received critical praise from Spin Magazine, Metacritic, and Pitchfork (not to mention nabbing the number 34 spot on their 50 best albums of 2011). What these critics saw was a group of four young musicians who were fed-up with the apathetic state of modern music. The opening track of You’re Nothing, Ecstasy,” starts with guitar feedback much like the strike of a match before arson. The guitars are picked wildly as the drums drive the song in a cacophony of cymbals and snares. The centerpiece of each song lies in the vocal chords of the lead singer. One might compare his delivery to the likes of a fidgety Ian Curtis or a pissed-off Robert Smith, but the singer brings his own brand of Danish cynicism and fury that is his own creation. The vocals are delivered sloppily through a mouth full of marbles and a belly full of whiskey, but when you are least expected it, can turn one-hundred-and-eighty degrees and be sharp, angry, and short-fused. At any point in this collection of twelve short tracks, the listener is expecting to see the band collapse mid-song, setting their guitars on fire as the singer howls while convulsing on the stage. From the opening track the listener can already tell that the group are full of angst and, ultimately, youthful.
Oh, and did we mention that they are all 18 and 19 years old?
This group of youngsters wrote, produced, and recorded twelve stellar tracks that will make many older punk musicians envious upon first listen. While many thirty to forty-year-olds try to recreate the punk sound and atmosphere of their youth, this group of teenagers have done enough research and spent enough time and effort to make You’re Nothing not only ground-breaking in its musical ideas, but also stay true to punk-rc roots. By the time you reach the track “Morals,” you start to notice the groups’ more melodic side and subtle harmony. The army-march drums accompanied by piano sound wonderfully powerful and ominous. As pointed out by Pitchfork, Iceage dove deep into musical history and paid homage to the 1960 Italian pop track “L’Ultimate Occasione” by Mina. The track hits hard emotionally and adds a new dimension to the album of a whole, and you begin to notice more subtle dark harmonious complexity within the musical chaos that the album possesses throughout.
Modern music needs more artists like Iceage. They bring enough to the table on their new LP that it might blow some of their older contemporaries right out of the water. This group brings a strong argument that challenges the trend of reunion-filled, revivalist, rehashing of older music that has dominated the music world in these past years. These young punks prove that music in 2013 is not saturated, shallow, and emotionless. You’re Nothing by Iceage is a challenging record filled with fire, emotion, youth, and creativity well beyond the band’s years.
Review by James Calvet.