As a genre, “art punk” makes no sense. The “art” suggests a predilection for the avant-garde or the experimental; “punk” is back-to-basics and raw. However, both are about challenging your audience, and that’s what Iceage does on their spectacular fourth outing, Beyondless. Beyondless sounds like a punk album recorded at the gates of Hell. There are times when it’s all controlled, louche swagger and there are times when it’s scorched and unhinged. It finds ways of warping classic rock riffs, brassy jazz outbursts, and earth-splitting distortion into visceral sonic grotesqueries. With Beyondless, Iceage establish themselves as worthy heirs to Richard Hell and Nick Cave, and make their claim for best punk band working today.|
FCCs: 1, 8
Favorites: 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10
1) “Hurrah” (4:16) – FCC “b******.” Brooding and subdued, like Joy Division heard through an old pair of headphones, but it’s got bright and colorful guitar riffs. (FCC is pretty well-hidden—I only caught it because I read the lyrics online—so if you want to try sneaking it past, it’s on you.)
2) “Pain Killer” (4:56)* – A punk love song? With a brass section? Hell yeah. Sky Ferreira provides backing vocals. The jazz and punk elements complement each other well.
3) “Under the Sun” (4:32) – A strange mix of clean, chiming electric guitars and acoustic guitars—sometimes over screeching feedback, and other times over lurching percussion. There’s even violins in the final minute.
4) “The Day the Music Dies” (3:49)* – A basic punk song with some undercurrents of brass. Sounds sludgy and primal
5) “Plead the Fifth” (3:11)* – A softer, almost jangly number with a throbbing bass and a piano in the background. It’s one of the prettier songs on the album, but that hardly makes it less thrilling to listen to.
6) “Catch It” (5:46)* – A slow-burning song that builds in intensity until the last two minutes—it sounds like it’s building to a final showdown, like in an old western movie. There’s a brief, wild, and furious detour around the three-and-a-half-minute mark before returning to what came before.
7) “Thieves Like Us” (3:51)* – What is this, honky-tonk punk? The jangly, swinging guitar line makes me think of some twisted form of alt-country / Americana music. It’s a great, foot-stomping romp, complete with a saloon piano at the end.
8) “Take It All” (3:51)* – FCC “g******.” A stirring song that’s almost entirely frantic violins and steady drumming. Sounds like a sunrise at the end of a post-apocalyptic movie. (I couldn’t catch the FCC when I listened to the song, so you should be fine playing this song—and you should play this song.)
9) “Showtime” (4:06) – Song slowly comes into focus amid Miles Davis-esque trumpet and slow, seeping percussion. Careens into a vaudevillian section in the final minute and a half.
10) “Beyondless” (4:03)* – Screeching guitar rings out over a thick, overdriven riff. Sounds like controlled chaos, like the singer’s standing in the eye of a hurricane of noise. Several seconds of silence after the instrumentation fades out.