Review Summary: Believe me, dearest, it ain't me..
A brazen cluster of battle cry lyrics and chiming guitars smash through on opener "Hurrah," edging in Iceage's fourth LP, the long-awaited follow-up to 2014's lauded Plowing Into the Field of Love
. The Copenhagen outfit is back, turning anxiety and sex into more artful malaise, more ragged tumult. They're older, 'wiser,' sophisticated but sleazy, less brash but not yet domesticated, and the sound of Beyondless
snares that unsettled ground with style. The band coming into their own, both as writers and adults is audible in the album's every crease, and most every turn that on past LP's squealed like a buzz-saw sports a sanded, refined edge.
As expected, Elias Bender Rønnenfelt stands front and center. The doped-up, androgynous lizardry that he's made the calling card of the band's shows is in full force, as are his atonal vox. That sidelong skew ends up working on Beyondless
in more potent ways than any of the band's work, constantly straining against the orthodox arrangements, at times raising small maelstroms out of sheer nothingness. His asymmetrical vocal delivery, always the dubious implement, salvages more than one song that in the hands of a more conventional singer would fuse with the fold, amounting to little more than alternative rockers with a slight edge.
There's a strange tug of war that persists through Beyondless
, a sense that parts and elements of these songs work for the same reason they don't. The brass sections kick off like schmaltzy game show thematics, then slip into hallowed art rock virtue and back again. The Sky Ferreira cameo hits the perfect spot, then crackles to empty pop bluster a bar later. The soused cabaret pacing of "Thieves Like Us" is as engaging as it is grating. None of that is untrod ground for Iceage or Rønnenfelt, who've often thrown all and any components into the boiling pot and let what stuck stick away. Both Plowing Into the Field of Love
and the punishingly prolonged, ramshackle dirges of Marching Church functioned along the same lines, pulling the listener in with something gratifyingly idiosyncratic, only to jilt it all to hell by doing something too sloppily, too indulgently or just too badly. It's hard to say if any of that is a damned thing to do, and in some ways, that is what forms the appeal of not only Iceage, but (post)punk in general.
Ultimately, this is bombast, and unlike the band's earlier scorchers, it's bombast of a more prosaic sort. It's a strong rock record that sits comfortably someplace between hot-blooded and keenly remote. There are spots where Iceage's newly-minted maturity works in all the right ways, and when it all clicks, like on the trumpet-laced "Showtime" and the deliriously vast-sounding title track, they seem as intrepid and unbound as they and the listeners want them to be. And there is more than enough deft songwriting here to save the record from being a square affair. But all things considered, and given the band's stormy and unostentatious beginnings, as far as taking strides forward go, this one is a mere slide to the side.