Review Summary: LET'S GO TO ICELAND!
Down I Go’s return to the musical world last year was a triumphant one. Their first release in 4 years (since the band members moved to different parts of the world), You’re Lucky God That I Cannot Reach You
, showed their fans they still had a few tricks up their sleeves, with the group scaling down their spastic aggression and emphasising their melodic nature. Iceland Extras
is a compilation divided into two halves, the first a collection of tracks recorded in Iceland during the You’re Lucky God
sessions, (You’re Lucky God
being conceptually based on Icelandic myths) and the second an unreleased EP of tracks under the name Sammy Davis Junior Junior, which was originally conceived around the time of the Gods
EP but was never finished due to the band moving apart. Over the next four years the Sammy Davis Junior Junior tracks were worked on by Down I Go’s Ben Standage (drums) who relegated the vocal duties to BATS frontman Rupert Morris, Jamie Lenman (of Reuben) and provided vocals himself to the only track supposed new vocalist Adam Powell (director of many UK based artist music videos) ever put vocals on. This, compounded by the fact that only one track on the first half is an original Down I Go recording (the others being covers by Komeda/Fantomas, Pariso and You Win Again Gravity) means that this is barely even a Down I Go record, something which can clearly be heard in the very different feel of the Sammy Davis Junior Junior tracks.
“Deep Indeed” is the only original Down I Go track on here and its clear why it didn’t make the final cut (even if it a ridiculously enjoyable track). The hilariously exuberant falsetto vocals, soaring harmonies and calls of “let’s go to Iceland!” come off across more as just a bit of fun than fully fleshed out ideas; a view reinforced by the track's relatively simple, repetitive structure. The three succeeding tracks are perfect choices for Down I Go to cover as each one features at least some resemblance to earlier facets of their sound from one point or another, with “Theme for Rosemary’s Baby” (Komeda/Fantomas) harkening back to Down I Go’s habit of having these cult like chants in between all the madness; although the melancholy whistling and humming brings to mind nothing they’ve done before. However, it does feature Pete Frasier’s seemingly new found love for falsetto vocals, which starkly contrasts with the next cover “Subtlety” (You Win Again Gravity) which calls back to some of their heavier works with its off-kilter chugging and harsh vocals.
The Sammy Davis Junior Junior side of this compilation is totally bereft of harsh vocals, an indication of the sound the band members were desiring to go in at the end of Down I Go’s career. But some other facets of their sound remain such as the technical melodies and harmonised interplaying vocals, such as on “Prayer For Motivation” which features my favourite lyric of the compilation, “im not giving up im just taking a break, if fear creates nothing there’s nothing at stake”, an apparent ode to procrastination. Overall this side is more as if the current wave of UK based alternative rock/post-hardcore acts had a bit more personality, as although the atmosphere is certainly somewhat toned down with some of the vocal duties being unimpressively pedestrian Down I Go’s knack for fun vocal melodies and rhythms remain - except maybe for the last track “A Thousand Songs”. Although, “A Thousand Songs” is a welcome departure from the usual anyway, being a 6 minute slow melodic build up that never tries to reach any sort of climax but instead just barely picks up for the last two minutes to create a resigned sense of finality, a fitting end to a bunch of tracks that may be showing out a band who probably had more to say.