The Icarus Line are pretty infamous at this point. If you haven’t heard them yet, you must have at least heard about them. Whether it’s because of their antics at SXSW or their connection to the more and more cynical and seemingly now homophobic website Buddyhead, these guys are probably judged more on extraneous factors than on the quality of the music itself. So the question is can these L.A. boys live up to the hype? Kind of.
I must admit that I slacked on this review quite a bit. Jeff gave me the record months ago, and now I’ve finally gotten around to writing about it. Mono, the Icarus Line’s first record, was a full on sonic assault, channeling Drive Like Jehu, The Stooges and The Jesus Lizard. Fuck The Refused, this was the shape of punk to come! Penance Soiree doesn’t have the same impact, however. Here we see a band that has developed its sound differently in the few years since Mono, still keeping the Jesus Lizard influence but adding a bit of Stone Roses and old school rock ‘n roll a la The Stones. Oh, and more reverb.
Instead of continuing with the punk fury of the first record, Penance slows down the pace a bit, and replaces the pure anger of Mono with pure sleaze. These guys are total L.A., and that’s what this record sounds like: dirty, nasty, and monotonous.
The album’s first track, “Up Against the Wall”, is probably the best track on the album. And boy, do I hate that. Why put the best track first? It made me think this record was better than it really is, though; I just kept remembering track one. As the album continues, there are a few more standouts, notably “On the Lash”, “Spike Island” and “Kiss Like Lizards” but moments like these are fleeting. “Meatmaker” gets credit for incorporating some interesting drum programming that actually breaks up the repetitiveness of the other tracks. “Caviar” and “Getting Bright at Night” are dirtied up Spiritualized/Spacemen 3 rip-offs; good, but not great. Everything else? Uh, well I forgot what they sounded like already.
On another note, the lyrics here are pretty awful. I was given a copy without the lyric sheet, but from the parts I can actually understand, the whole record is about trashy L.A. women. We’ve never heard that type of stuff before, have we? Maybe it was better when I didn’t know what they were saying.
So two months later I’ve made a conclusion: Penance Soiree is a slightly above mediocre record by a band I still think has plenty of potential and noise making ahead of them. The good stuff is really good, the bad stuff is just boring. Mono was too damn good for me to count them out just yet, but whether or not they will release anything better than that is up for debate. But I don’t think touring with A Perfect Circle and the Distillers is going to help matters. Will it be arena rock for the next record, boys?
Jesus Lizard – Goat
Stone Roses – Stone Roses
Stooges – Funhouse