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Music Reviews

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Icarus Line
Crank! Records

Rating: NR/10 ?

October 1, 2004
I should have passed this record off to Avery for review simply for the pleasure of him ripping it apart. After deciding that I would listen to it and review it myself I was planning to give it a real dose of the "Buddyhead" treatment. You know, a three-sentence review. Toss the word "fuck" out a few times, make a reference to suburban kids or something. Done.

Then I thought about implementing the Buddyhead review system which consists of two options: 1) pass it off to some dumb kid who wants to review a couple of records, 2) pass it off to a friend of the band to review. As it turns out we've gotten rid of all the dumb kids around here (contrary to some popular opinions), so option one is out. Option two didn't really pan out either, as Sean McCabe is dead and I don't really know Travis Keller. For a moment I thought about asking the Icarus Buddy himself (guitarist Aaron North) to review the album under a pen name, but in the end decided to review the damn thing myself.

First I suppose I should make it clear that I'm relatively unfamiliar with the Icarus Line, other than the Buddyhead propaganda that has cluttered my inbox from time to time. I heard their track on the recent Crank! sampler (read: quick money scam) but wasn't overly impressed with what I heard, and that pretty much comprised my exposure to the band. I came into this album fresh faced and optimistic. I left a bit battered and a bit surprised.

The battered part is easy to explain. The Icarus Line are hard, fast, and explosive. They rock, as some might say, "the fuck out" of the twelve tracks on the plastique. From the opening squall of "Love is Happiness" the table is set for a feast of soaring guitars and vocals with the capacity to both hypnotize and assault.

The band plays with tempo a bit more aggressively on "LOST" and "The Rape of the Holy Mother" is as demonic as the name suggests, combining the screamy hardcore intro with a bit more of the droning, distorted guitars and gargantuan metallic drums that make the album so enjoyable. There is a bit of Alice in Chains creeping into the vocals here and there, a lot of a Black Flag type guitar sound filtered through eyes that grew up watching the glam rock of Guns & Roses with one eye and the L.A.P.D. beat people senseless with the other.

I was surprised at how referential this album is. I find it rather hilarious that one of the kids over at Buddyhead would refer to this band as having "no lame punk clichés", the fact of the matter being that there are probably less than sixty seconds of original sounds on this album. The Icarus Line do what they do extremely well, bringing an energy and even a certain suaveness to the studio and to the stage. The Icarus Line are from LA, where you either come correct or don't come at all, and they definitely come correct. What the Icarus Line do not do is create or innovate. Their sound is a blended sound stream of 80's and early 90's punk rock, with an emphasis on the Californian sound. There are moments when the band (specifically the antagonistic guitars of North and Alvin DeGuzman) seems to be experimenting with mood shifts and dynamics, such as the lengthy closer "SPMC", but more often than not they are content to follow the rhythm section's lead over the well worn roads of punk rock.

This record is good. Its damn good, actually, which makes it even more frustrating that it isn't even a bit more original. The energy is present, the aggression is present, the guitars are quick and smart, the vocals are solid, but there is too much regurgitation of old ideas here. These guys are all young, barely into their twenties, so it will be interesting to see if age and experience leads them to expand on tracks like "SPMC". In the meantime I'll be listening to this record, waiting.

PS - The MPEG video included on the CD is top notch and serves to give the album more personality via the visual connection.

PPS - Is Crank! really still a record label? These guys can definitely do better.

Reviewed by Eric J Herboth
Eric J. Herboth is the founder, publisher and Managing Editor of LAS magazine. He is a magazine editor, freelance writer, bike mechanic, commercial pilot, graphic designer, International Scout enthusiast and giver of the benefit of the doubt. He currently lives in rural central Germany with his two best friends, dog Awahni and cat Scout.

See other reviews by Eric J Herboth



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