Iceage approaches punk-masterpiece status with 'You're Nothing'
Sometimes all it takes is the whine of a guitar firing up to set the tone for half an hour of music. Whether it is anticipating a bigger drop or groove in the music, or merely defining a band’s attitude, opening with feedback is a sure-fire way of orienting a listener in the space of the album.
But when Danish punk crew Iceage leads off You’re Nothing’s first track, “Ecstasy,” with the screech of guitar noise, the noise never gives way to the dimensions of the song — the noise is the song.
The opening of “Ecstasy” ripples throughout all of You’re Nothing. Beyond the song’s demented heavy dance music and shouted chorus of “I can’t take this pressure!” Iceage harnesses its chaotic whirlwind in new and inventive ways. On the poppier side of things are tracks like “Burning Hand” and “In Haze,” both of which betray Iceage’s unabashed love for melody that lurks beneath its emo-influenced guitar churns and half-time drum freakouts.
Conversely, You’re Nothing has no shortage of punkier fare, like “It Might Hit First” or the phenomenal “Coalition,” in which lead singer Elias Bender Rønnenfelt’s frenzied screams recall a young Bob Mould or Henry Rollins. Though it may be reductive to compare Rønnenfelt’s style to the greats of ’80s hardcore, the singer’s malleability and charisma really do evoke the glory days of working-class punk rock.
This isn’t even to mention how great a pop-punk sing-a-long sounds in the hands of Iceage, who absolutely nails the anthemic qualities of highlight “Awake” in a guitar riff that would make any nihilistic teen jealous.
For an album with twelve unique songs in less than thirty minutes, Iceage is shooting for a punk masterpiece, and it’s not far off the mark, with both hardcore tracks like “Rodfaestet” and moodier “Morals.” The Danish group is so conscious of the album experience it is crafting that it even throws in a song named “Interlude” for good measure.
It is fair to say that most people listening to a 29-minute album wouldn’t necessarily have the highest hopes for an “Interlude” slotted as early as third on the record, but Iceage manages to justify the existence of its instrumental feedback loops as part of a cycle of songs.
It is clear that an incredible amount of thought went into the creation of You’re Nothing, from the lyrics to the spectacularly strange chord changes.
At the end of the day, a few 21-year-olds from Denmark are quietly posing a hostile takeover of American punk music. It remains to be seen where this young group will go next, but in the meantime, You’re Nothing is more than enough reason to believe in something — even if it’s nothing.