The Icarus Line - Penance
By Mascara Ladyman
Gone are the tireless labors of self-releasing
their first studio album on self-owned Buddyhead Records, Los Angeles artcore
band the Icarus Line have opted for V2 Records in it’s place. With Penance
Soiree as their sophomore album, the Icarus Line have already come a long
way from their 1998 start with a small following of dedicated partisans
- wherein time they began to adopt their present uniform of black shirts
and red ties to pull the focus off superficial discourses and instead to
their irrational, loud music. Boasting two guitarists, Aaron North and
Alvin DeGuzman, who go after each other with scream-pitch, schizophrenic
guitar playing, Don Devore's heavy, fast bass complimenting Joe Cardamone's
throaty vocals, which share some similarities to Maynard James from A Perfect
Circle, and Jeff “The Captain” Watson on the skins, Penance Soiree truly
is a record that warrants buying and listening to live, just to hear how
such an acerbic sound can come out of a modern band.
There is no walking around broken glass
with this record. Penance Soiree is straight-forward rock ’n roll music.
They may not call themselves punk rock but they've definitely got the ethic
according to bands like the Dwarves and the Germs. Influences range from
Black Flag to Soundgarden to Sonic Youth, which shine through on a couple
of songs seemingly dedicated to feedback and electro-noise. For the most
part, the Icarus Line can be described as scathing. High-speed. Honest.
Erratic. This is coming from a fan's perspective. Caustic ups and downs
just like a riot. Aggressive. Dark. Versatile. I thought "Feed A Cat To
Your Cobra" and "Mono" were great. This is even more abrasive. Taking a
step forward towards harsher consciousness on the art rock genre. There’s
labeling the Icarus Line into anything even remotely gentle, especially
since they have got a record of aggressive vandalism painted all over their
black shirts like blood stains. Scary if you don't get it. If you get it
it's actually very beautiful noise.
The fight opens up with "Up Against the
Wall, Motherf*ckers". I even love the title. It brings me back to the violent,
revolutionary 1960’s organization full of crazy motherf*cking art school
kids. There is a definite similarity there between the outlaws of the past
and the present’s Icarus Line. These guys are actually bringing punk rock
back into punk rock in a form that's unexpected. The Icarus Line create
brilliant songs that sound like an orchestra crashing and dissolving with
white noise from a construction site. The bass stands out heavy in the
background of this song as Cardamone fronts the noise like a screeching
tire as he screams out "Why can't I get some for freeeeeeee??...." following
in this abrasive background rhythm.
"Spit On It" explodes in head-on vocals.
Cardamone uses distortion to give his voice a raw lo-fi synth sound that
ends trailing like nails on a chalkboard to the rhythm of a psychedelic
song. Musically with “Spit On It”, the band hook their guitars into special-effect
pedals to reach an electronic screeching pitch. This somehow gratifying
sound elevates with melodic noise while Jeff Watson sounds like he's just
pounding the f*ck out of his kit.
The guitars and bass in "On the Lash" are
phenomenal. The production on this track really stands out. The music commences
fast on this one and simply concludes faster. The music on "Caviar" is
haunting like Bauhaus playing hardcore, but the vocals stay the same Maynard-like
slow-to screaming-to melodic. [great metaphor] The song is construed to
even more haunting tones when Cardamone sings "Give me perfectioooonnnn..."
to North and DeGuzman's amazing dark riffs. Cardamone really showcases
his vocal abilities on "Spike Island", when it's clear how he can go from
screaming to singing and stay in tune, complimenting the experienced, heavy
guitar. The Icarus Line step into a more commercial, radio-friendly position
with this song.
The drums stand out yet again on "Kiss
Like Lizards", giving the song a strong backbone with a plethora of change-ups.
"Getting Bright At Night" is a break-through
song for the Icarus Line in that it is a big departure from their usual
sound. Everything from the guitars to the drums to the vocals are
softened, but there is still a trace of a caustic fire brimming just below
the surface, waiting to break on through any second, starting with the
drums. This song may be a great gateway drug for people that can’t take
the harsher stuff at first listen. “Getting Bright At Night” sounds like
it starts off where "In Lieu" from their first full-length "Mono" ended.
Ultimately, the Icarus Line attain chief
standing with me because I am a stickler for songs under 3 minutes and
I don't even check the clock to see how long these songs can go on. The
music is so irrational and changes are made so frequently that you often
can’t tell when one song has started and the other has ended. Halfway through
one song there will be a change so drastic it seems that it has gone on
to the next track when in reality there's about 5 more minutes left on
the same song.
With this record, the Icarus Line showcase
their ability to successfully induct an array of sounds into one big schizophrenic
record; especially on songs like “Party The Baby Off”, “Meat Maker”, and
"White Devil", who respectively feature synth horns, pulse, and killer
saxophone bits. Watson does a good job of contributing to every song by
beating rhythm out of those skins like a guy kicking the sh*t out of his
Dodge Stratus when it doesn't work for the 34th time. Most bands wait until
they've signed to a major label to start experimenting but the Icarus Line
pulled it off naturally. The chaotic music on every track on this record
wholly compliments the persona of the Icarus Line; much like Iggy Pop‘s
music is an accolade to his persona, and the Germs‘ music was an manifestation
of theirs. So, it comes as no surprise that when I listen to Penance Soiree
I automatically think “peanut butter“.
Line - Penance Soiree
Up Against The Wall Motherf***ers
Spit On It
On The Lash
Kiss Like Lizards
Getting Bright At Night
Party The Baby Off
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