The Third Door, Edinburgh
Saturday November 24th 2012
“Can we borrow the support bands' guitars?” asks Iceage vocalist Elias Ronnenfelt with the sort of sleepy-eyed mix of boredom, shyness and self-belief that doesn't expect any answer other than action. Three songs in, and the baby-faced Danish neo-hardcore quartet's own guitars are fucked, a mess of snapped-string fury that's the only thing that's made them pause for breath on this fourth date of their European tour.
With a name that recalls a song by Joy Division in their early, proto-punk Warsaw incarnation, Iceage's 2011debut album, New Brigade, announced to the world a primitive outburst of teenage frustration that was both a throwback to a million spirit-of-'76 one chord wonders and an urgent rebirth of the same crash-and-burn attitude. With New Brigade's follow-up on Matador Records imminent, Iceage are currently between moments, holding on to both for dear life so tightly that broken strings and borrowed guitars are inevitable collateral damage.
Headlining a show where first support act Birdhead sound like German electro-punk duo Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft, while second on the bill Baby Strange peak with a cover of Mink DeVille's Spanish Stroll, Iceage's sound sits edgily in-between the two. Standing before a busy room of equally disaffected youth alongside a few old lags, Iceage take punk's nihilistic shtick and breathe fresh life into a series of blink-and-you'll miss-em assaults that do away with subtlety and sophistication for the ultimate back-to-basics deconstructed clatter.
Ronnenfelt is a pretty-boy pin-up in denial. He leaves the stage more than once, surging against the tide of bodies he's at risk of being lost in before coming up for air and stepping out of reach. It's as if he wants to be part of the throng enough to embrace it, but is too repelled by it to commit, preferring to stand out in the crowd and keep his distance, however ugly the view. If this recalls anything, it's a young, strung-out and flailing Nick Cave if he'd been cast in Glee and was fronting an unholy, Frankenstein's monster alliance of The Birthday Party, The Cramps and The Strokes that could fall apart any minute.
After twenty-seven blistering, breath-taking minutes – two longer than New Brigade's running time – it's over. Forget pork pie hatted posh boy punk pretenders. In their eyes, at least, Iceage are for real, so catch them while they last, before self-destruction or showbiz makes them irrelevant. Right now, Iceage mean everything and nothing. They are their generation, and, for the next five minutes, they will blow everything else apart.
The List, December 2012