For a band that has earned their ever-growing reputation from their loud and attitude-filled punk gigs, it is perhaps strange that it is always Iceage’s recorded material that impresses most.
Copenhagen’s Iceage burst onto the scene in 2011 with the release of their debut album, New Brigade. With this, not only did they do extremely well in many end of year lists, they also spearheaded a new wave of Scandinavian post-punk.
Since 2011, Iceage have kept themselves busy. They’ve toured Europe and the USA extensively, as well as signing to Matador Records, and of course, they’ve recorded You’re Nothing, the band’s second album. In their now customary awkward interview style, Iceage had announced to the press that You’re Nothing was to be a record in which they explored darker themes than their debut. Darker it may be, but all of the young punk energy and thumping riffs from New Brigade are still present, and thank God for that.
Before the album’s release, we had heard the opening two tracks: ‘Ecstasy’ and ‘Coalition’. The former is a thrilling two and a half minutes attempt at British post-punk circa 1978, crossed with American hardscore. Singer, Elias Ronnenfelt, howls about his inability “to take this pressure”, while drummer, Dan Nielsen, pounds the life out of his drumkit. It’s a stunning start to the album. The latter, ‘Coalition’, hints at being a love song: “She gives me signals”, yet the band’s recurring themes of teen anxiety and tension return pretty swiftly, with Elias shouting about these days being “numb and faded”. ‘Coalition’ could’ve been plucked from the back catalogue of any ‘Year Zero’ punk band, and it’s all the better for it.
In stark contrast, the drum solo of ‘Interlude’ sounds like something from the back catalogue of Bauhaus, and sounds suspiciously similar to the death rattle of Joy Division’s / New Order’s ‘In A Lonely Place’. Next track, ‘Burning Hand’ features the catchiest chorus on the album. The verses are dark and disjointed, yet the chorus features an incredibly clear and melodic riff. ‘In Haze’ is the one track I was most interested to hear. Live, the Dropkick Murphys-influenced guitar riff gets lost amongst the feedback and intense noise, yet on You’re Nothing, it’s mixed perfectly and is never lost for a moment.
‘Morals’ strikes of Wire around the time of Chairs Missing, and ‘Wounded Hearts’ sounds like a tribal take on early Joy Division material. A slight lull in the album is soon followed by ‘Rodfaestet’, the first song that the band has sung in their native Danish. On this evidence, they should sing more songs in Danish. The sheer passion and anger is unrivalled across the rest of their back catalogue, making it the stand-out track on the album, and of their short career to date.
Penultimate track, ‘Awake’, borrows from The Cribs’ ‘We Share The Same Skies’, with Elias declaring that “we’re running out of time”, to a backdrop of smashing glass and clear drum sounds. Martin Hannett anyone? The album closer, the title track, features the repeated phrase of ‘you’re nothing’: a typical Iceage statement, but who could begrudge them a little hatred now and then?
We might be nothing. Who knows? But fortunately, Iceage are quite a lot more than nothing. You’re Nothing keeps all the frantic punk excitement of their debut, but also shows their further delving into post-punk attitude and sound. This is twenty-nine minutes of pure intensity. Relish every second of it.
…Alex is listening to Wire – ‘Pink Flag’