Iceage - Beyondless
Like every other important movement in popular music that has come before or since, punk rock must continue to evolve in order to remain relevant and truly representative of its time. Not unlike jazz music in the first part of the last century which, over a period of twenty odd years, grew from its early dixieland infancy to the heavy dance based beats of ‘40s era swing, to the cool intellectual sophistication of post-war be-bop and beyond, so too must punk rock. Over a period of time, music’s natural evolution ultimately begins to challenge the very notion of what is at the heart of even the most basic definition of the genre.
Danish punk rock band Iceage address this head-on with their latest album, the aptly titled Beyondless album. Throughout 10 tracks and 41 minutes of music, these twentysomething millennials (not to be confused with ‘90s New York prog-rockers Ice Age) manage to redefine the sonic possibilities of punk rock while simultaneously challenging the listener’s preconceptions of what a punk rock record should sound like in 2018. Expect the unexpected. The surprises come early, as witnessed by the punchy horn section and too-sweet-for-words boy/girl "Pain Killer" duet highlighting the ever-enchanting Sky Ferreira, who reprises her role from last year’s exquisite Jesus And Mary Chain record. These tidbits of sonic surprise don’t stop with the unlikely presence of a haunting string section ghosting its way through the underbelly of "Under The Sun".
In addition to the core instrumentation of bass, drums, guitar, and vocals, this Copenhagen quartet manages to leave just enough breathing room on much of Beyondless. This creates space for some highly effectual session players who get thrown in haphazardly throughout the mix with the apparent express purpose of summoning the unlikely presence of both John Coltrane and Miles Davis. "Catch It" teases with a brief flourish of Trane inspired squawk while strains of electric Bitches Brew-era Miles Davis trumpet work can be heard throughout "Showtime", its unexpected Broadway inspired clunky piano middle eight topped only by the quiet 12 bar blues guitar intro to "Thieves Like Us."
Never Mind The Bullocks this is not. Their fourth album in seven years, Beyondless is more akin to the experimentations The Clash afforded themselves on their later records, but on a much more intimate and less grandiose scale. All three previous Iceage albums were nominated for the coveted European Independent Album Of The Year Award, in no small part due to the talents of frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt who convincingly handles vocal duties on all 10 English language tracks on the album. His infectious droning monotone not only evokes punk’s earliest days by channeling CBGB era Marquee Moon's "Television" led by a young Tom Verlaine, but also serves the album's seething lyrics which are easily heard throughout. Their third on the prestigious Matador Records imprint with its limited premium roster to just 30 some acts, Beyondless feels like the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Vibrant and vital Beyondless reenergizes and reaffirms the infinite possibilities of a paradoxical youth based genre now in its 40th year.