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Iceage : You’re Nothing

Danish post-punk four-piece Iceage are the only band I’ve ever seen live that made me feel genuinely nervous. At last year’s Primavera Sound festival in Barcelona, the pissed off-looking group took to the stage in the blazing late-afternoon heat and proceeded to tear through a set blighted with technical problems that seemed fraught with danger from the start and only got more volatile as it went on. The band often seemed to be playing at cross purposes, racing each other to the finish line and and yet somehow, miraculously, arriving there at the same time, but it wasn’t just the thought of the quartet breaking apart like a meteor before our eyes that put me on edge; moreover it was the very real prospect that if his guitar pick-up fucked up one more time, or even if someone in the crowd dared to cheer at the wrong moment, frontman Elias Bender Ronnenfelt – a terrifying teenage bundle of dead-eyed detachment and manic aggresion in a Lonsdale t-shirt – might just snap and stab his bandmates with a broken bottle before garroting himself with his mic cord. Of course, none of this was entirely unexpected: 2010 debut LP New Brigade had brilliantly captured the unsettling energy of Iceage’s live shows and sophomore album You’re Nothing (out now via Matador Records) repeats the feat, sounding at times as though the band had been recorded balancing on the wing of a moving aeroplane – leaning desperately into the wind and thrashing at their instruments, trying to hear themselves over the roar of the jet engines – and at others like the most tightly disciplined of hardcore oufits. A more commanding presence than before, Ronnenfelt still sounds like some intense, unhinged hybrid of Ian Curtis and Henry Rollins, groaning “Pressure, pressure/ Oh God, no/ I can’t take this pressure” on the lurching “Ecstasy” and howling “Excess! Excess!” at the moon on “Coalition” (below), while his colleagues flail wildly behind him, but the album is just as thrilling in its more coherent moments – “Burning Hand”, “Wounded Hearts” – and, somewhat surprisingly, its stand-out track (“Morals”, set to a slow, martial drum-beat and featuring mournful piano) is essentially an Iceage ballad. I wrote recently about the current shortage of old-school punk sensibilities, but if Pissed Jeans are taking up the mantle of “new punk”‘s grumpy old men, they clearly have themselves some exuberant allies in these angsty young Danes; Iceage will gladly drag punk back into a shadowy back alley and give it a good roughing up, happy in the knowledge that they’ll feel even angrier afterwards.

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About foamhands

My name is Michael Dix; I'm a decade or so past being down with the kids, but to me new music never gets old. Apparently I like music that sounds like faulty kitchen appliances and ritual slaughter; really I just like what I like, whether that happens to be indie, pop, punk, hip hop, metal, electronica, Afrobeat or jazz. Follow me on Twitter @FoamHandsBlog to receive notifications of new posts and the occasional random brain-fart, and please share links wherever you can. Enjoy!

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