Album Review: You’re Nothing – Iceage
My last experience with Copenhagen’s Iceage was that of watching them sulk around a Primavera Sound stage as numerous technical difficulties sapped the energy and enjoyment out of their set. Looking back on it I should have appreciated the moment for all of its chaotic Punk overtones, but the truth is as I was standing in the hot sun watching Elias Bender Rønnenfelt hate the entire world while his beat-up guitar refused to comply, I was let down. I 'd been looking forward to catching Iceage for months, and witnessing the full assault of their debut album (Youth Brigade) in person while Europeans moshed and sneered around me. Sadly it didn’t quite work out that way.
I shouldn’t have let that Thursday in Spain sour me to Denmark's greatest musical export since.... I don’t know... King Diamond? Lars Ulrich?... yet I returned to America “over" Iceage. I thought my sentiments would stay that way forever, but I nevertheless gave their new album, You’re Nothing, a listen out of curiosity. Now one thing above all else has become evident to me... I really love Iceage.
You’re Nothing is twelve tracks of explosive, obscured, and savage Punk-Rock which showcase an evolved, tighter, and superior Iceage. 2011’s Youth Brigade was a great record, which I ranked as one of that year’s very best, yet when you compare it to You're Nothing it comes off sounding like merely a collection of demos. This latest album was written and produced by a group of 20 year olds who have refined their nihilism, built up their chops, and sharpened their hooks, to the point where once they’re in you they will never let you go.
Iceage’s considerable improvements are easily identifiable from the album’s exceptional opener, Ecstasy, a two and a half minute gem which is equal parts messy, kinetic, and killer. The band’s newfound songwriting upgrades manifest themselves in the melodic apathy of the cluttered verses, the double-time crunch of the pre-chorus, and finally the murky trudge of the PRE-SSURE refrain which feels like it cuts open your stomach with something very dirty. You’re Nothing wastes no time before gifting you with another fantastic track, as the barely two-minute Coalition come up next, and manages to channel at least five percent of every great Punk band ever to have recorded music. It only took listening to two songs for me to realize that Iceage is now two albums down a path that can lead to any and all of the following: arrest, tragedy, or absolute greatness.
In what I can only assume is an attempt to show their audience how much they’ve grown artistically, You're’ Nothing’s third track is a dark ambient interlude aptly titled Interlude (I guess the inspiration ran out before they started naming songs). Once their brief sonic reset is over (I feel it may have come a little too early in the record), Burning Hand abandons some of the accessible leanings of the the earlier songs and replaces them with what can best be described as some pretty hot licks (a rarity for most Punk bands), and even one slightly-danceable chorus. The hot licks continue with In Haze (and, later on in the record, with the guitar-bonanza that is Wounded Hearts), as a very-jangly, nearly Maidenesque, intro sets up another terrific track drenched with lead-lines derived from the one scale they've learned since recording Youth Brigade.
You’re Nothing's second half kicks off with what is easily the album’s biggest and most eye-opening surprise. Morals is a half-time marcher (at first) supported by an out-of-place, yet absolutely perfect, floating piano for the first minute. As the opening measures of the track sprawled out of my speakers I was both confused and excited by the sharp turn which this record had taken, when the song shifted gears into a proper Iceage song during its choruses, only to drop back out in the verses, I was deeply impressed. These young men appear to have already learned some vital lessons about opening their horizons, and are doing so fearlessly.
The rest of You’re Nothing’s second half is comprised of more two and a half minute gleaming shards of Punk-Rock. There are tracks imploring you to raise your fist (Everything Drifts), thunderous explosions meant to rattle your brain (It Might Hit First), and breakneck tunes which drop out in the middle so you can catch your breath (Rodfaestet). The album’s final two tracks feel more like well-deserved victory laps than anything else, but are still both highly enjoyable. Iceage made some great sequencing decisions (outside of Interlude) with this record, and by the end of You’re Nothing’s 28 minute runtime not only do you feel like you've run a marathon, but you’re exhilarated, and you want to do it again.
I can recommend a lot of things about Iceage, the primary of which would be their records (seeing them live is another matter). Their debut album was a like a kick to the head (in a good way), and their sophomore release, You're Nothing, is like a stab in the heart (in an even better way).