iceage, Balaclavas The Backroom at the Mink July 15, 2011
A lot of folks have a dirty habit of going full-throttle on a new band with only one album and a few singles, lumping praise on them before they can really live up to it. Aftermath has done it in the past (Die Antwoord, ahem.). Months later, we ended up feeling guilty when they didn't do anything else to keep the hype going, and looked like a musical alarmist, or worse, a hipster flailing for something new and dumb to be the first on the bandwagon (planking, ahem). iceage is such a band right now, but they are in no terms dumb.
In the days leading up to Friday night's Balaclavas/iceage/The Energy gig at The Mink, we were going through the same motions, getting excited to see a band that most in our business were proclaiming had recorded the punk album of the year, and were in fact, on the cusp of starting a new worldwide punk movement, like the Refused sort of did in the '90s.
Yeah, the LP, New Brigade , is great and all, and it goes down smoothly and quickly in a matter of minutes filled with late-period Black Flag (think My War), Joy Division's precursor Warsaw, and Wire flourishes.
But the band are all teenagers, and with that age involved, it accelerates the blog love to almost intolerable levels. We get caught up in a debut album and fail to see the long-term. Yes, it's great that they are all under 20 years old, but what comes next?
Could New Brigade be the sole great contribution of iceage to the conversation? Kids grow out of sounds, and in five years they could sound like fucking White Lies. These are the things that went through our mind before the show.
Well, that and this blog, which accuses iceage of playing with fascist ideals and offensive imagery. Klansmen and racial cleansing made appearances in lead singer Elias Bender Rønnenfelt's online blog too, but that doesn't mean he's condoning it. Aftermath puts up pictures of Marky Mark on our blog, and we don't condone the trickery and magick of Boston hooligans with washboard abs.
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The Odd Future cult has done and said things just as shocking and headshakingly "young" over the past year too. But with iceage, and their Danish background, comes a "scary" fascist European bent that scares those with sensitive eyes. It's accepted already that a hip-hop crew will say things that that are shocking and sassy, right? Rønnenfelt and Tyler, The Creator aren't too terribly different.
All that aside, the first part of the evening (stay tuned for Allison Wagoner's rundown of The Energy's portion) was a thrilling coming-out show, for iceage and Balaclavas' new material as well.
Balaclavas played their entire upcoming album minus one song, according to drummer Charlie Patranella. The release, the follow-up to last year's Roman Holiday, is due in the fall, and features shockingly dancey tracks, but dancey in the darkest depths of the evening sense of the word. There ain't no disco balls and good times here, and they went heavy on the dub this time around.
There was a welcoming hush for Balaclavas too; reverence, with most of the people in the crowd either in bands themselves, or longtime fans of the band. Are they one of the most original and entrancing bands in Houston now, that isn't getting widespread love? Yes, very much so.
iceage, on the other hand, had people climbing from the venue's rafters, feet from tragedy, while the band played most of New Brigade, and a few scattered songs not on the album, including "You're Nothing." iceage is a punk band, pure and simple, built from all the guts that make great punk rock.
The postering, the youthful energy, the indecipherable anger (girls? the "system", racists in their hometown?), and that cool way of playing with that detached air of confidence. No smiles.
It works, and they had the venue in enough of a lather to incite an encore, and even more jungle-gym theatrics on the ceiling. Now, it remains to be seen if the iceage we saw Friday night is the one we will see again in Houston next time. Growing up is a bitch.
Personal Bias: Spooky shit and keyboards.
The Crowd: Sweaty, black-clad, drunk.
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Overheard in the Crowd: Nothing. They shut their damned mouths, except to clap and order drinks mostly.
Random Notebook Dump: OK, someone has to say it: iceage lead singer Rønnenfelt looks like an angry Justin Bieber after Selena Gomez dumps him for a football player and he discovers a copy of Damaged and gets super-pissed.