After last year’s Seek Shelter, Iceage’s operatic and classic-rock adjacent turn, a collection of outtakes seems only fitting. Seek Shelter was stuffed to the brim with ideas: the epic “Shelter Song,” power pop on “Dear Saint Cecilia,” gothic despair on “Love Kills Slowly.” It wasn’t the first Iceage album to show their range (2014’s Plowing into the Field of Love really opened the floodgates) but it had the best production value and the most sophisticated presentation. It emphasized what we’ve known from the start: Iceage takes rock music very seriously.
Frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt sings less with technical skill than with blind faith, like he’s trying to break open quagmires of meaning and doesn’t quite care how he gets there. More often than not, he and the band manage to find the bones of a great song, whatever mood it conveys. Shake the Feeling, a collection of outtakes and rarities collected from a six-year period leading up to Seek Shelter, holds up against any of their studio LPs. The only songs that clearly belong on an outtakes collection are a cover of Abner Jay’s “My Mule,” a traveling song that feels like a joke with Rønnenfelt’s bellowed drunk-Ian Curtis delivery, and “Lockdown Blues,” a thin COVID rocker (though it’s worth a tip of the hat to a modern rock song about quarantine that’s neither ironic nor sentimental).
“All the Junk On the Outskirts” and the title track kick things off with dense mid-tempo energy, in the vein of Beyondless. In the album’s other cover, Bob Dylan’s “I’ll Keep it With Mine”, Rønnenfelt makes explicit what’s always been there in Iceage: a love of Dylan’s drawn-out vocal poetry. But there are flashes of the early band’s punk abandon, too. “Socipath Boogie” sounds exactly like its title, and slaps. “Balm of Gilead” is by turns sludgy, searing and sneering, recalling the best tracks on You’re Nothing. “Broken Hours” lurches in and out of half time while a piano rings like a train station bell, a whirlwind of chaos in a glass bottle.
While the punk rock energy is still present here, Rønnenfelt approaches the music from a poetic standpoint at the end of the day. Nowhere is that more evident than the closer, an acoustic version of last year’s spellbinding “Shelter Song,” one of the band’s best tracks to date. It’s a song that sounds better bigger, but the acoustic version gives a welcome look at the folk-inspired skeleton.
Taken as a whole, Shake the Feeling is a reassuring reminder: Iceage still has no shortage of ideas, and they’re only getting better at executing them in contained bursts. If they can wrangle a record this good from these “misfit children” (as Rønnenfelt terms the outtakes here), there’s no telling what heights they’ll reach next.
Label: Mexican Summer
Casey is thinking about modern hip-hop and 70s rock. He’s written for Grandma Sophia’s Cookies, Brainchild, Plaze Music and WTJU.