The UK has us beat in a couple of areas. They have the sophistication thing down, despite certain individuals like Shaun Ryder or the Gallagher brothers. They have the style thing too, which has made Britpop such a worthwhile subject of nostalgic longing. And they manage to find a way to revisit the past without sounding embarrassing. For evidence, put Louis XIV next to The Futureheads and decide for yourself, then. But one area that the Brits could use a little brushing up on is rocking out. I mean, just because Eddie Argos does it when he sees abstract expressionism doesn’t mean everybody else knows how. And I’m not talking Queen rocking out, or Jam rocking out here. I’m talking crazy, spastic, balls-out rock `n’ roll.
I’m already regretting the pun I created here, you see, because the one band that gives me hope for the UK’s unruly youth is Test Icicles, one of the most bloody awfully-named bands in history, shooting straight from the groin to the jugular. It only adds to their smart-assed nature that they were once called `Balls.’ Ahem…well, what’s a name really? For Test Icicles, it’s all part of the package (insert gong sound here). The song titles on For Screening Purposes Only are pretty ridiculous as well (“Party On Dudes (Get Hype),” “What’s Your Damage?”, “All You Need Is Blood”), but that’s only one small surface aspect to this young UK trio. What’s most important is that Test Icicles slay. I mean they really destroy.
Where most bands would be content to make a disco-flavored punk single and call it a day, Test Icicles take that formula and fuck it up beyond repair. The rumbling bass and squealing guitar leads of FSPO‘s leadoff track “Your Biggest Mistake” lay it all on the table: Test Icicles are for moments of your wildest, most awkward spazz-dancing, and nothing less. You simply can’t sit still and nod along, you have to jump around like an idiot. That’s how the band would want it, I’m sure. From the middle-fingers-in-the air couplet of “a stroke of luck/what the fuck” to the righteous fingertapping to the bassy synth breakdown, this one song reveals sonic surprise after sonic surprise, all without giving you the opportunity to come up for air. That’s how hard these guys rock.
Horror-punk anthem “Pull the Lever” adds a bit of creepy organ droning to TI’s dance-core, and “Boa Vs. Python,” with all its effects-addled weirdness, even proves that the band can create a fists-in-the-air single, complete with shout along chorus: “forget the rain/you can always say keep trying/so much for life.” “Circle, Square, Triangle,” likewise, keeps up the dancepunk vibe, sounding like a more caustic Bloc Party, while the larynx-shredding “Catch It!” is notable if for no other reason than the assertion “bitches don’t know me!“And the Stoogey stomp of “Snowball,” complete with its shouting choir chorus, makes for even more of a rockin’ good time.
Test Icicles are ballsy (rimshot, please) for trying so much on one album, but it’s all in the context of loud, fast rock music, snotty and immodest. That there aren’t more bands like this in the UK only makes sense, really. Most people would think you crazy to cram an album full of bile-spewing dancepunk with a Van Halen jones and a penchant for dirty jokes and expect to be taken (a little) seriously. Well, Test Icicles may just be an extremely elaborate “fuck you,” but they’re a fun one, and even if ironically, these dudes shred. Party on.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.