The Indie Equation

The Unholy Marriage of Music and Math.

7.06.2007

Equation #37: Icarus Line

Simulcast on Mog.com


What do you get when you get a guy who looks like Iggy Pop, put him in a punkish, fuzzed-out garage band and set them loose to do drugs, fight people, vandalize, insult, and generally trash every club they play with their outlandish onstage antics? Well, if this was 1970 you'd get The Stooges. However, it's currently 2007 so you get Icarus Line, the apparent baton-receivers of Iggy and The Stooges legendary taste for distaste. Now, I played Icarus Line's long-coming LP "Black Lives at the Golden Coast" shuffled in with The Stooges "Raw Power" and despite the differences in voice and production the records could be cut from the same mold. Now Icarus Line is nowhere near as important, revolutionary, "talented" or honest as Iggy and company, but I'm sure they have a good time breaking things and howling and getting in fights with other bands, and their music isn't half bad either.

Though their sound is more progressive and varied than their elected father figures, mixing in the manic detachment of At the Drive-In along with the distortion heavy drone and thundering drums, Icarus Line still has the familiar funky odor of all those sweaty proto-punkers of the 70s. As I understand it, everything that happened in the 1970's (even disco) is now cool again. The fashion, the music, the political ideas, especially the hairstyles and penchant for well groomed mustaches, are sturdy foundations for a lot of the acts out there now. This is both good and bad; it's good because if there were a decade for new bands to mimic, I'm glad they picked the 70's and not, say, the 1920's. Or the French 1700's (which, coincidentally, is a sweet band name). It's bad because even if a new band becomes huge based on their creative interpretation of their favorite bands from the 70's, they're still riding someone else’s wave. I mean, the music on Icarus Line's record is really good, and it's certainly not a wholesale rip-off of The Stooges, The Velvet Underground or Black Flag, but no one could argue that without those elder legends as starting points that these guys could have just come up with this music. Now one could argue that, as it is very true, there's nothing new under the sun, that _every_ new band is just putting another coat of wax on that old and weary grand-pappy we know as Rock, and that may be so. But there are bands out there that are being original, look at TV on the Radio, Menomena, Gnarls Barkley, and Hella. These bands don't sound like anyone else and if they borrowed their style in any way they were conservative in their application and light in the touch. Everyone knows that Rock has been dead for nearly two decades, give or take a few years, so any new act touted as "the Revival of Rock" is merely rubbing the defib paddles and giving the corpse another shock. Sorry, but in a world where Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton make albums that sell and artists like Mike Doughty and Gruff Rhys grab for scraps of market share in the shadow of "Top 40" there is no revival of Rock. This fresh wave of bands who dress like Lou Reed, sing like Robert Plant or play guitar like Pete Townshend, whether they intend it or not, are really just playing in cleverly disguised tribute bands. If you plug your guitar into a fuzz box and just go all "wake the neighbors" there's nothing you can produce that, statistically speaking, hasn't been done before. You can't invent new chords, you can't play new notes and you can't turn it up any louder than someone already has. I love the guitar but if music is going to progress and break free of this creative maelstrom we're in we're going to need a new instrument. But that's neither here nor there.

So, yes, Icarus Line is good, it's probably one of the most interesting rock albums I've heard this year. It's even gorgeous at times. But one can't help but wonder why they exist, what they're aiming for and where they would be if James Newell "Iggy" Osterberg never dove off a stage slathered in peanut butter.

2 Comments:

  • At 2:02 PM, Blogger Marcelo Merçon said…

    Cheers
    Glad to see theindieequation is back. I had bookmarked you long time ago, but I didn't know you were back. I'm planing to write about your blog in my blog (iamsogeek.blogspot.com - it's in Brazilian Portuguese).

    Could you tell me, in your words, what it is about and why do you choose those bands (are they the bands you've been listening to lately or you just write about them when you happen to realize similarity between them and the other bands? Yes, it's a small interview and I wanna write a nice article. :)

    And if I write about it, can I use one of your "equations" to illustrate the posting?

    Congrats, very nice blog

     
  • At 2:56 PM, Blogger Josh said…

    Yep, You've pretty well got Icarus pegged...

     

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