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You're Nothing Luke Turner , February 21st, 2013 11:53

Punk band in suspected Nazi shocker! Where's the fascist behind your bed/hiding between How To Dress Well and Japandroids in your naughtily acquired iTunes library? The actions of some of Iceage's audience, their choice of imagery and rather awkward penchant for merch that features vicious looking knives are currently causing a bit of a stink online. Artists emerging from the hardcore scene (or indeed, most scenes that have at their heart abrasive noise) are wont to pursue imagery that many find unpalatable. Doesn't mean it's right, but it happens, and has done for decades. Iceage are also young men, and young men like to do things to provoke, shock, and generally set them apart from their elders and peers. I abhor much of the language used by Tyler, The Creator, but I don't feel it devalues his potential as an artist. What are you going to do, organise a Joy Division LP burning soundtracked by cockin' Foxygen?

So let's get on with it: Iceage's You're Nothing is one of the most exciting, open-minded pop punk (not THAT sort) albums I've heard in years. North American punk rock is currently in rude health, most obviously evidenced in crossover terms by Iceage's Matador labelmates Fucked Up. To me, though, Danish group Iceage are the superior, largely because of the defiantly European aesthetic that shines through their music. You couldn't really imagine these handsome young Danes in big shorts and tees or baggy jeans.

This is reflected in the way their music lets so much more in than the standard punk instrumentation, sonics and structures. One of the most interesting moments here is 'Interlude', which sounds like the soundtrack to the loading page of a military strategy game from the 1990s, all martial drums and metallic hiss. It's the most obvious point of comparison with Var, who share members with Iceage and whom we saw play a compelling set of Doomed Youth electronics at last year's Incubate festival. It lurches, rather brilliantly, into 'Burning Hand', a mixture of the angry and euphoric, with angry drum rolls pounding away beneath Elias Bender Rønnenfelt's leering vocal.

His presence is in part what makes Iceage so compelling. Fresh-faced, his thick voice always feels like a taunt - "where are your morals?" he asks at one point - caught somewhere on the threshold between manhood and adolescence. It helps that he has an equally smart band behind him. The drum fills (the drumming here is something else, like an angry speed-driven typewriter) and tightly wired guitar lines alternate and duet, with a trebly discord ringing out across nearly all the tracks. 'Ecstacy' has a vague resemblance to The Fall's 'Bingo Master's Breakout', but aside from that is a glorious, lurching, hormonal, uppity beast, the perfect way to start such a powerful, energetic record.

It's not just all amphetamine bluster though - somewhere in the fog of piano and static of 'Morals' is a very conventional pop song trying to get out. 'Wounded Hearts' reeling guitar comes after a singalong chorus. 'It Might Hit First' like much of You're Nothing sounds like Bauhaus in a cement mixer - never forget that at heart Iceage are goths. Unlike a lot of hardcore - especially the American sort - this is never overly macho in its sonics either. Perhaps it's just because I like looking at the pictures, but there's almost something rather homoerotic about You're Nothing, as if you're breathing in the heat of the room in which it was recorded. Twelve tracks, 28 minutes, no repetition, boundless energy: as 'In Haze' puts it rather nicely, "this is the speed of youth."