Four-fifths of the way into Iceage's third album, Elias Bender Rønnenfelt declares he's "p**sing against the moon." As introductions go, it's about as subtle as things get, but then Rønnenfelt and his band have never been renowned for their subtlety.
Welcome to 'Plowing Into The Field Of Love', the latest venture for Copenhagen art terrorists Iceage. We use the term "art terrorists" rather than "art punks" because their vision is clearly set in the future rather than retrospective past. And while some of the musical reference points here can be traced back to artists of yore, their take on such wares is breathtakingly unique, even by their uncompromising standards.
Indeed, the three years between 2011's debut 'New Brigade' and now make interesting viewing. Emerging from Denmark's vibrant underground scene a couple of years earlier, their first record had a touch of Idlewild's 'Captain' about it; visceral, dangerous, challenging, raw. Their live shows seemed to confirm that initial promise, not to mention the band's ability to exacerbate both audiences and the media alike.
Accusations of right-wing affiliation followed suit, largely on the back of the band's occasional flirtations with Nazi imagery, misguided as that may seem. Of course, there was no evidence to suggest a few mindless idiots sieg heiling at their gigs or a guitarist's Death In June tattoo heralded the second coming of the Third Reich. Instead, 'New Brigade''s successor 'You're Nothing' reaffirmed their status as one of the more innovative acts to come out of punk's disparate fringes for some time.
A statement that is only enhanced by 'Plowing Into The Field Of Love'. Gone are the two-minute angst thrashes. Only album mid-point 'Abundant Living' comes close, its cacophonous squall coming on like an amalgam of The Stranglers' 'Peaches' and Bowie's 'Ziggy Stardust' played out in an abattoir. In their place come deftly assembled monologues of a jazz inclination; avant-garde passages that veer into Miles Davis or John Coltrane territory via the guttural polemic of The Birthday Party. Some might say Iceage have finally grown up. We'd rather label 'Plowing Into The Field Of Love' their maiden voyage of self-discovery.
"I may come after you!" chirrups Rønnenfelt half-enticingly, half-menacingly during the symphonic 'On My Fingers'. Meanwhile, 'The Lord's Favourite' gives Gun Club style cowpunk a 21st century makeover. Then 'How Many' takes Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody' up a dark alley, beats it black and blue before wrenching its insides out. Formulaic or genre specific this record most definitely isn't.
'Glassy Eyed, Dormant And Veiled' takes discordant guitars and layered effects to a darkened room. Again, vocally comparable with Nick Cave's earliest works, it's Iceage's penchant for delivering the unexpected that sets them apart. Better still is the desolate 'Forever', a slow burning anti-anthem ("I lose myself forever!") that instinctively bridges the gap between melancholic country and leftfield abstract.
By the time 'Simony' - part old-school Iceage in that guitars figure highly in the mix, but never out of place here either - and the title track bring 'Plowing Into The Field Of Love' to a climactic standstill, any doubts lingering over Iceage's standing as one of the decade's most innovative bands have dissipated. An uneasy listen, yet essential all the same.
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