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Iceage - New Brigade

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Artist: Iceage

Album: New Brigade

Label: Dais

Review date: Mar. 22, 2011

I’m going to venture out on a short limb and guess that this teen gang from Denmark took its name from the early recordings of Joy Division. “Ice Age,” a track loosely drawn from from Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, dates to the beginning of Joy Division’s short career when the band was known as Warsaw. While that song has trademark wiry guitar and back-of-the-throat singing, some of those early tracks have full-on Iggy Pop-style whooping and purring.

There hasn’t been a shortage of bands that borrow the monotone of Joy Division. But the kids in Iceage pair it with a ragged, snotty attitude. There are times they sound like a version of Ian Curtis et al. that never lost those Stooges affectations, that never found the producer who stripped their material to the bone, that kept getting faster and more jumbled alongside the burgeoning hardcore scene.

Seeing as the Manchester kids scrapped their first round of recordings and ditched the band name, the Warsaw album has mostly been a footnote. Before the age of file torrenting a discography, it was nothing to get fixated on because it wasn’t easy to come across. But the noisy path not taken, so distant from where New Order ended up, is intriguing. After decades of bands exploring the skeletal atmosphere and despair that ushered in post-punk, Iceage uses that jaggedness in a way nearly opposite from danceable guitar rock.

The music on New Brigade is sparse but frantic. The title implies a creepy fascination with Teutonic identity, which is reinforced by the hoods and pagan logos in Iceage’s homemade video, then just as quickly dispelled by the puffs of bong smoke and overall silliness. The songs aren’t post-punk … or post anything, really. These boys seem to have stumbled out of a garage only vaguely sure of when to hit their instruments. Jerk-off adolescent fury fuels the angularity far more than any time spent examining old albums. New Brigade is a happy accident made without undue influence. These boys are gonna freak when they hear Scratch Acid.

Simply put, Iceage tap a vein of musical disfigurement that I haven’t heard before, and I’m dying to know how they came up with it. Whenever a chorus or some mid-range pleasantness shows up, it’s kicked aside. “Broken Bone” has bits that march along like an anthem might take shape, only to have horrifying treble shred it apart. Each dude is fighting for the foreground. How much of their lack of tuning is for effect, and how much is just lo-fi expedience? There’s something lunky and crude that weighs down the chaos, even if it outwardly resembles arty contrariness. Motorik without motor skills, New Brigade actually sounds new.

By Ben Donnelly

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