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Test Icicles - For Screening Purposes Only

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Artist: Test Icicles

Album: For Screening Purposes Only

Label: Domino

Review date: Mar. 2, 2006

It's always interesting to watch Britain's "Next Big Thing" chew up and spit out one band after another, victims of an overly hyperbolic press and, all too often, too much too soon syndrome striking them down. Test Icicles may qualify for the briefest tenure yet, with one album out, a ton of press, and then... The band breaks up and everyone's already forgotten them anyway, in order to bestow their garlands on the Arctic Monkeys. Alas, as they say.

For Screening Purposes Only pulls its primary inspirations from Britain's post-punk canon, wrapping up bands like the Fall and Magazine together with a panoply of more modern influences – enough that the album's most severe drawback may be that it feels like a smorgasbord of stylistic dabblings. Primarily, it comes off as a very young album, unwilling to commit to any one direction. Add to that lyrics that often have to stretch to reach the level of high school poetry, and in some cases ("Catch It") are worse than that.

That's not to say that individual songs aren't worthwhile, though. There's no denying that the Icicles churned up some good energy, with jagged guitar work and shouted, furious vocals over a strong rhythm section. On songs like "Snowball," one could be forgiven for thinking that this might be some new Fall song, though the vocals are more like the Mark E. Smith of 20 years ago than today.

"Circle.Square.Triangle" has some notable guitar work on it, and a respectable funk-derived bass-drum rhythm, while, in an example of the shifting sound here, "Catch It" combines grindcore vocals with some digital hardcore rhythms and lyrics that would have been best left unwritten, let alone unsung. "What's Your Damage" is one of the best songs, despite vaguely risible lyrics. The band manages to swing easily between one of the album's few truly catchy choruses and free-for-all bashing riffage.

Test Icicles, in the end, created an album that has a fair number of enjoyable moments and enough energy to carry it through an equal amount of bumpy turns – it's a fairly fun album, albeit not one that sticks with you. If they'd stuck it out for another album, Test Icicles might have been able to focus on their strengths and deliver a more consistently strong album, but we'll never know.

By Mason Jones

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