As Southern California punk geezers OFF! proved recently, you don’t have to be young to play punk rock. Yet a fresh perspective on an old genre sometimes requires some fresh faces, and at around 19 or 20-years-old each, the members of Denmark’s Iceage are about as fresh as they come. Formed a little over two years ago in Copenhagen, Iceage play a raw, bare-bones and highly abrasive form of punk rock that boasts enough grit and adrenaline to blow minds more 35 years after punk first broke on either side of the Atlantic. And some recent evidence points to an already invigorated American audience: the band recently played a sold out show with Fucked Up in New York, which, more notably, was their first show in the United States.
The high-speed, maximum-intensity rave-ups on New Brigade, the band’s debut full-length, offer strong justification for the levels of excitement the band is already stirring up. Blending the arty fury of Pink Flag-era Wire or early Joy Division with the no wave origins of Sonic Youth, as well as the more recent melodic nihilism of bands like Liars and No Age, Iceage carve a surprisingly fresh, albeit jagged niche for themselves on New Brigade, powering through one jaw-dropping anarcho-soundtrack after another, coming to an abrupt ending before one even has the opportunity to truly assess the damage that’s been inflicted. That the album spans a brisk 24 minutes only adds to the urgency the band puts forth, maxing out the excitement level until the knob breaks off.
With “Intro,” Iceage offers a sole concession to the listener to become adequately prepared for the onslaught of giddy punk rock thrills that arrive in rapid succession shortly thereafter. A percussive rumble kicks off “White Rune,” an early two-chord highlight that jumpstarts from tense to piledriving in seemingly a flick of the wrist, whereas the title track soars at one speed: breakneck. Guitarists Johan and Elias trade streamlined, noisy jabs, their reckless interplay sometimes resulting in hook-laden bliss (“Remember”), elsewhere shredding high on the neck with shrill, abrasive glory (“Collapse”).
By and large, New Brigade is an album built primarily on energy and jittery nerves, but hooks abound throughout, if not always in the most conspicuous fashion. There are, however, a handful of moments in which their penchant for accessible structures and penetrating melodies catches up to their caffeinated vivacity. “Broken Bone” is one such moment, opening with a dissonant progression before soaring into a Clash-worthy chorus in which Elias belts out some infectious “ooooh”s. And at three minutes long, “Never Return” is practically epic by Iceage standards, allowing a fair amount of space between distorted and jangly riffs.
Blink, cough or sneeze and you run the risk of missing one of these 12 raucous punk detonations. But the abrupt nature of Iceage’s careening no wave jams lends itself to frequent replays, and with tracks this fiery and uncompromising, “boring” doesn’t seem to be part of the band’s vocabulary. No, you don’t have to be young to play punk rock, but Iceage have made a strong case that it’s youth who will keep it interesting.
Stream: Iceage – “Broken Bone”