Iceage New Brigade (What’s Your Rapture?)

By June 30, 2011Music & Reviews

Not long ago, a Danish daily deemed them “teenage punks full of anger and anxiety,” a line galvanized by bloody post-show photos of smiling audience members published on their blog. Questions like “Are they the saviors of punk music?” have been posed, as though punk music needs saving. They just played their first show in the U.S. this past weekend, in Brooklyn. It sold out. The New York Times and The New Yorker have weighed in. They’re set to return to Roskilde this summer. As you may have already realized, there’s a swirl of information and interest surrounding this band right now, at the heart of which is their music.

And it turns out that New Brigade is a refreshing and extraordinary debut. These four have located a punk-rock sweet spot: mixing the black atmosphere of goth, the wild-limbed whoosh of hardcore, and the clangor of post-punk. It’s a feat made all the more impressive by one very important intangible: energy. While they still have room to grow as songwriters, the energy in every atom of New Brigade‘s charred, sub-25-minute rush is seductive. From the moment “White Rune” starts to quake until those last tangles of guitar conk out on closer “You’re Blessed”, there’s little escape from this record’s grip. Even the foreboding mash and march of “Intro”, its wordless, 46-second pulse of a prelude, is enough to make you feel like you need to fling yourself in the direction of someone else.

That said, despite the typically direct, blunt-object nature of “punk,” much of New Brigade is also impressionistic. Elias Rønnenfelt’s words (sung in English rather than Danish) are largely unintelligible, leaving a lot up to the heart and imagination. Rønnenfelt finds an effective way of sharing just enough room for listeners to fill in the blanks. As if mimicking the motions of his own guitar, he scythes his way through each song, usually to anthemic heights. That you can hear in the gasp of “Collapse” and starry-eyed bounce of “Remember”. Even more so in aforementioned climax “You’re Blessed”, a song that sounds like a more irritable cousin to the poppy, post-hardcore emo that came of age here in the 1990s.

The album’s grit has nothing to do with fidelity. While Iceage employ decidedly abrasive no-wave textures, New Brigade was recorded in a proper studio. The result is a recording whose snare hits and basslines announce themselves with real fury. And though a lot of this music might seem from a distance like a dozen ideas thrown together in the space of a single song, what they’ve done here is deceptively precise and exists on a deeply personal, unfiltered plane. All these lurches and groans and crashes and bangs and stutters and roars come together to form one consistently rousing, emotionally immediate whole. From them to you.

David Bevan, June 29, 2011