Iceage | New Brigade
I owe the teenagers in Iceage a huge debt of gratitude. Over the last ten years, the music of my all-time favorite era of rock – British post-punk – has been the driving force behind many of the most ballyhooed bands of this young century. And while I’ve definitely enjoyed much of the work of bands like Interpol, LCD Soundsystem, The Rapture, Franz Ferdinand, and British Sea Power (to name just a few), none of them have hit me with the same force as the bands of 1979-82.
I just assumed that the problem was me. I figured that it was foolish to expect anything I heard in my dotage to affect me the same way the stuff I discovered in my youth did. Turns out I was wrong about that. A few 17-year-old Scandinavians have proven to me that it is still possible for a band to hit with the same impact as vintage Wire or Gang of Four. They just have to approach the material with the same intensity and reckless abandon those bands did. At the end of the day, as impressive as a band like Interpol can be at times, there’s something aloof about them – they’re too studious and calculating. They worry about getting the sound right more than the spirit and end up feeling like they’re playing dress-up.
Iceage doesn’t have that problem. They attack their songs with the same deranged ferocity as Andy Gill attacking his guitar on Gang of Four’s Entertainment. I’d be willing to declare that Iceage’s “Never Return” is the closest in spirit to early Gang of Four that anyone’s yet managed to get, and even though it’s only three minutes long (which is epic by Iceage standards) they manage to evoke The Clash at the same time.
Like Wire on Pink Flag (or the more recent Send), Iceage don’t fuck around. They rampage through the eleven tracks on New Brigade in 22 minutes, but aside from the opening “Intro,” nothing here feels like a fragment. Every track is like a rabid greyhound, a sleek and dangerous bit of streamlined but fully-formed aggression. The magnificent punch in the face “White Rune” is the best of the lot, but ravenous tracks like “Total Drench” and “Broken Bone” come close, approximating the Leeds sound of bands like Gang of Four and The Mekons if Leeds was in the process of being burned to the ground by raging Visigoths.
I’ve not heard another band that sounded this much like 1980 since 1980. For a few Danish teenagers to capture the spirit of another country in an era that was considered oldies-fodder by the time they were born is pretty remarkable. Plenty of bands have come along inspired by the bands of the British post-punk movement. Iceage are the first that I’ve heard that honestly sound like they could have been those bands’ peers, without a whiff of nostalgic posturing in evidence.
Watch the video for “New Brigade” by Iceage: