Posh punks Iceage continue their champagne toasts to Nick Cave and fellow goth brooders with Beyondless. Further deconstructing the form of their early hardcore tunes, they continue to ramble their way through their new aesthetic style, this time sharing runtime with Sky Ferreira, who guests on "Pain Killer". Very serious music that's actually very silly.
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I’m looking at these song titles and I’m just applauding their quintessence. How Iceage is a song titled “The Day the Music Dies”, placing them cynical and prescient beyond their years? How classic is “Plead the Fifth” for a band who’s basically trying to make sense of their dreams for a co-headlined tour of Nick Cave and Morrissey? What the hell is “Beyondless”, beyond an extremely Iceage name for a song? Welcome back, you miserable champagne existentialists.
On their last record, Iceage decided to reinvent themselves as a band who care more about aesthetic than the sound it creates, offering a mix of gormlessly mumbled songwriting and gleefully twanging cowpunk. It was kind of fantastic in how good of a shambles it became, but ‘Beyondless’ sees them do one better: these songs, as rough around the edges, are actually jubilant, optimistic bursts of sound, juxtaposing Elias Rønnenfelt’s decision to pretty much give up on being a useful, singing frontman with belting horns, bombastic riffs and Sky Ferreira. Yeah, she’s here, and her place on “Pain Killer” is well earned: on her debut solo record, her triumphantly noisy and compressed hooks were played out full blast, and this song sees her join the Iceage crew in a big, messy anthem that kinda forgets itself amidst the celebrations.
Of all the hardcore bands to break-up with their old genre and have a stab at whatever trinket of old songwriting they want, Iceage might be my favourite: ‘Beyondless’ has effectively abandoned the band they used to be, but these hidden acoustic strums and half-baked song structures are embraced full throttle, “Under the Sun” becoming a sweltering, self-sabotaging noise rock song with whistling violins and randomized drum fills. It’s the sound of a band who not only knows exactly what they want to be, but acts it out with the unfathomable sincerity of Nicholas Cage.
Even more convincing than previous record ‘Ploughing Into the Field of Love’ are songs like “Plead the Fifth”, where drain-circling riffs and marching drums meet glockenspiels and empty, nihilistic echoes. Or “Catch It” with its numbing, never-ending push on of words and mandolin and calamity, placing the band somewhere between a punk band, Popul Vuh and country rock R.E.M. At points like this, it’s hard to know whether Iceage are sloppy as heck or one of the tighest bands ever: whether they’re doing spindly post-punk or broken down noise rock, Iceage have become a band who can hypnotise, creating euphoric slabs of sound that hold the listener on without reproach. Misery is alive and well in the greasy corners of Iceage's sound, but 'Beyondless' is ecstatic.
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