Review Summary: This album is loaded with feedback rage and bile, but is also full of variety and creativity, a perfectly messed up punk album, awesome.
Ok my previous review was in dire need of a revamp so I think I'll do it now........................
This album was the 2nd full length album by the Icarus Line, following the infamous Mono. It is also the last album by these guys to feature the following line up:
After this album Aaron North left to join the live line up of NIN, and then later formed Jubilee. Don Devore also left some time later for less press-worthy reasons (basically i don't know why).
Anyway onto the music, which from the beginning is unnerving and threatening, the intro of "Up Against the Wall Motherf*ckers" feels as though it is the soundtrack of a fall down a huge canyon, with the sickening crunch at the end included. The bass led groove that takes over from here has an eerie way of unnerving and intriguing the listener, I think this is topped off by the threatening sneer that is Cardamone's voice. This song in particular likes to guide the listener between eerie quiet and explosive chaotic noise.
As the relatively chilled ending of "up against..." ends, the intense "Spit on it" explodes into your face, sounding rather like carefully organised chaos that is literally being spat by Cardamone into your ears. Musically speaking this track is fairly standard muddy punk, however the arching guitar that first occurs roughly 20 seconds in gives it something of a peak. This is probably a result of Aaron North's distinct playing style, which is known for creating the aforementioned organised chaos. This blinding track is over almost is soon as it begins however, which leaves me personally wanting more.
“On the Lash” is comparatively restrained but still fairly menacing in the way it is presented to the listener. Cardamone is once again present as some kind of spooky ringleader, backed by a wall of relatively tuneful feedback. I personally find the best part of the song to be a breakdown which occurs relatively late in the song (not certain when), the true meaning of a wall of sound appears in this track as it becomes a messy but powerful wave of chaos that washes over and leads into an impassioned ending vocal by Cardamone.
“Caviar” is a good track but seems less intriguing that the previous ones so far. Beginning in a fairly vibey manner, the vocal kind of fades in and out, almost making it sound like you are being followed. The track has a fairly industrial sound in a literal sense, what I mean is that the beat is fairly flat and to me sounds like something that is literally some kind of machine. However it is less inspiring tha many of the other tracks, leaves me wanting more.
“Spike Island” is actually a fairly standard rock song in many ways, beginning with the rhythm section and vocals the guitars kick in later to add a solo that reminds me of certain 60s groups. The guitar leads continue to follow a certain hazey style, often mixed down whilst Caradamone is singing. The repeated guitar and bass breakdown while the song tells us “We are alone” has a distinctly groovey feeling.
“Kiss Like Lizards” comes next giving a healthy shot of rage introduced by a wall of chaos. The guitars crash into you, as do the drums and bass and the song repeatedly switches between two styles. One is an epic shrieked piece of fury, with guitars that twist whilst the other is a speedy breakdown, all led by angry sounding guitars and a pained sounding vocal. This song feels like a ridiculously heavy dose of pure negativity. The final section of the song gives us the impression that the band have given up out of a pure sense of bitter hatred. The slow section of the song cleverly mixes into the next one, the epic “Getting Bright at Night” which begins on an oddly depressing and restrained note which is layered over quickly by some clean guitar work and mumble vocals. This section of the song really does have a negative feel until it leads to a clever guitar based rise, Cardamone at this point is declaring that he “won't fall in love anymore” and then becoming suddenly more impassioned howling his lyrics at the listener. Then the guitars kick in harder with a powerful reverberating solo/instrumental and the song reaches a peak which, despite it's depressing nature, feels very exhilarating. This then leads into a more relaxed wall of noise as Cardamone begins to howl again. Then it crashes and becomes extremely ominous as we are not sure what will happen next leading into a groovy and menacing riff, The vocal becomes more angry and yet also more positive as the song slowly fades away, sincerely requesting us to “never give up” on it.
“Big Sleep” begins with a flat rhythm with some really interesting guitar work, courtesy of North and DeGuzman before leading into a song which flows a fairly standard strand of rock n roll, reminding me of the Stooges or perhaps even the Stones. The lyrics are once again a kind of destructive negativity but also appear to show a level of vulnerability. There is an impressively interesting breakdown in the song where the guitar work reminds me of Sonic Youth or something similarly intriguing, this all ends almost as soon as it begins though as the song crashes back to it's angry crushing nature an fades on a reverberating chord.
“White Devil” is a fairly bluesy song with lyrics aimed at things considered to be norms of society and trends. The song is fairly slow and less of an offense on the senses as the rest but it also appears to be an expression of intent and honesty, the peak of which is an impressive interlude with Joe screaming, the guitar skillfully hypnotising the listener and some added instrumentation, which includes sax and some others I find harder to recognise.
And now for something completely different, the echoing and spooky “Meatmaker”. This song is lead by a speedy bass line and the whispered lyrics, as well as confusing sound FX. The guitars appear to have been replaced by a sampler, though i'm pretty sure this isn't the case. This track comes across as a burst of psychedelic punk poetry. It's one of my favourite tracks but I find it a little short.
“Virgin Velcro” is again fairly standard rock n roll but has kept the crashing and noisy feel that defines this album. The bass is dirty and the guitars grate and screech at you. However, this song uses tricks and ideas that you've already heard on the album, so it impresses the listener a lot less than it could.
“Sea Sick” has elements that remind me of grunge and also of epic experimental metal, whilst still staying true to the distorted punk that these guys stand by. The riffs on this track are fairly unique on this album and to me seem slightly akin to a Killing Joke epic or something along those lines, this is of course set apart by the sneering and sleazy vocals of Cardamone. But also because it keeps the distinctly chaotic guitar style of Aaron North whilst exploring reasonably new ground for these guys. The riffs expertly lead the listener through several different slow paced movements, finally fading out on a wall of guitar based noise that lasts a surprisingly long time, but definitely sets a tone.
“Party the Baby off” is basically a catchy sing along hidden under layers of distortion and sleaze. This tracks is actually the most catchy song on the album and it seems the The Icarus Line want us to know that underneath it all they can write a fairly bouncy track whilst still sounding incredibly unique. It's a little surprising but serves as an interesting end to an excellent album.
All in all, this album is loaded with feedback rage and bile, but is also full of variety and creativity, a perfectly messed up punk album, awesome.