Johnny Marr’s analysis of 1970s punk runs roughly thus: “The energy was good, but most of it was pub rock masquerading as something new and exciting.” It’s an astute analysis – listen to ’70s punk band The Lurkers, and there’s little doubt that their music is all noise and no talent. Marr’s understanding of punk seems a pretty good test for any self-consciously noisy album, and one that Iceage pass with flying colours.
‘Ecstasy’, the first track on You’re Nothing, is short, sharp, and yes, loud. But it’s a pop song, really, and a damn good one. The melody, sung in anguished tones by singer Elias Bender Rønnenfelt, could have found equal service over a bed of 1980s keyboards. The chorus (“Pressure, pressure, oh God no”) a firmer rock grounding, and, as a whole, Iceage know a hook when they find one, and they’re able to forge a sometimes staggering compromise between brutal noise and artfulness.
‘Coalition’ is a particularly British sounding punk song.It is also laughably banal, concerning the frontman’s love life, as he battles his lack of interest in a girl who really wants to do naughty things to him. It’s always fun to hear that kind of thing screamed over bludgeoning guitars and hyperactive drums, and ‘Coalition’ is a standout track.
Final track ‘You’re Nothing’ sees Iceage re-adopt the post-punk sensibilities that were more evident on their debut than on their second album. The variation is welcome, and a testament to the understanding of the pop idiom that Iceage maintain: ‘real’ fans of punk might be happier with Iceage keeping a lid on the experimentation, but it’s when they’re
mixing at the fringes of punk that the band sound most exciting.
On You’re Nothing they merely prove what they demonstrated on their debut: that punk is not dead, that at its best it’s as vital-sounding as the newest developments in electronica, and that to truly succeed as a punk you need to be able to write a melody. You’d hope that Johnny Marr approves of Iceage, because they’re definitely better than your average pub rock band.