Denmark teens Iceage do not reinvent their sound on their sophomore release. Hell, not only does “You’re Nothing” not stray very far from their debut “New Brigade,” is more often than not does not stray very far from 1981 Los Angeles. But as indebted to hardcore as they are (and post-rock, shoegaze, etc) the band cannot be dismissed. Drawing on the same ire and frustration that has fueled the best rock, Iceage make their own statement with the same tools, rather than fall back on those tools and pose. “You’re Nothing” is no joke.
The opener, “Ecstasy,” is propelled by a 50s teen idol ballad melody—from hell, as it turns out. Like Gang Green or Squirrel Bait covering Frankie Lyman, this is all horny dream and reality ball-kicks. “Interlude” is just that: a muddy, martial ambient, with feedback and drums the only, and spare, sounds. This is a key track, however, not a throwaway or snide tangent; it is rather very effective and haunting, and a hint at the band’s varied sound palette.
“Burning Hand” is a cool, exhilarating and soaring mix of No-Wave and post-rock, almost wise in the way it blends and manipulates classic approaches to angry. “In Haze” is the kind of sludgy but melodic tune with which Australian bands like feedtime or Died Pretty once excelled. Most of these dozen songs are as memorable as they might be familiar. With “Morals,” brilliant bass and piano lines lace their shoegaze with poetic depth and power, while on “Everything Drifts” and “Wounded Hearts,” Iceage channel their inner Darby Crash. A dark propulsive riff lends poetry to “Awake,” while “Rodfæstet” is just brilliant quick hardcore.
The title track ends things with noise, spite and cathartic, rage, the ingredients for anthems for eons but, when done right, righteous. That is probably the best way to describe Iceage in general, and “You’re Nothing” in particular. Raspy vocalist Elias Rønnenfelt delivers the goods with style and authority. He is snotty, but his posing has a poetic sadness to it as well. As much as the music extends beyond punk into the ambient and abstract, Rønnenfelt’s voice is equally willing to explore an emotional range at once hesitant, defiant, and awestruck.
Hype, yes. Typical sonic heroes and themes, yes. But Iceage have ambition, and chops, and a snotty belief in their eventual rightful place among those heroes. May not happen; they may wind up memorable, forgotten or among the barristers who take your order at an Amsterdam hash bar. For now, for two records, for tonight, they rule the world.