(Matador Records, Out Fri 4 May 2018)
After a four year gap between records, Iceage return with a new album, the band’s fourth, which is undoubtedly their most varied and experimental to date. This in itself is admirable, as due to the amount of praise and hype they received when they first broke out with their debut album New Brigade, it would have been easy for them to either fizzle out in the way so many hype bands do or merely replicate the sound of that initial record. Thankfully, they have done neither but instead have defiantly trod their own musical path.
An interesting musical path it has been too. They have gone from the blistering noise rock of that debut to this album which includes moments of blues, jazz, soul, Americana, country rock and more. It is not only the variety of genres that have changed over the years but also the tone. The group’s sound has grown more positive from album to album with this being their most joyful sounding LP to date. Don’t let the sound deceive you though, as the lyrics are often darker and more melancholic than the music. This is evidenced on the opener Hurrah which sounds positively giddy, but nevertheless has a repeated refrain of “No, we can’t stop killing / And we’ll never stop killing”. The lyrics are frequently poetic, but this should not come as a surprise since lead singer Elias Bender Rønnenfelt often cites the likes of Jean Genet, Carson McCullers and Henry Miller as influences.
What may come as a greater surprise, certainly to frequent listeners of the group, is the amount of horns and strings that are peppered throughout this effort. It is particularly noticeable on tracks Painkiller and The Day The Music Dies, the former of which features a very good guest appearance from singer/actress Sky Ferreira, while the latter sounds not dissimilar to Screamadelica–era Primal Scream and is none the worse for that. Both tracks are absolute stompers.
Also taking them into new sonic territory is Catch It which sounds heavily influenced by The Velvet Underground. It also has a great ending as just when you think the song is going to finish, the band launches into a full-on psychedelic guitar freak-out. Not all of the experimentation works quiet as beautifully though. Take penultimate track Showtime, for example, an odd duck indeed which towards the end it transforms into an old time cabaret show tune. Despite all this experimentation the band have not totally abandoned their punk origins as many of the songs here retain a punk element, in particular the aforementioned opener and the closing title track.
In Beyondless, Iceage have produced their most mature and rounded release to date as well as delivering a possible album of the year contender.