If Iceage are skilled at one thing, it’s execution. The band’s 2010 debut New Brigade saw them take the well-worn punk aesthetic and rejuvenate it during a time when modern youth were in need of such honest, back-to-basics attitude. It was a singular statement, but delivered with precision and haste; the result was an unrelenting beast that held much more staying power than its 24-minute running time.
With their sophomore LP, Iceage expand their palette while preserving their innate sense of urgency. Ecstasy recalls the days when Joy Division would play Buzzcocks-influenced punk rock by the name of Warsaw, while the title track breathes with new-age nihilism. Perhaps the most curious addition to the fold is the slightly off-key piano that runs through centrepiece Morals, the closest the band will ever come to creating a ballad.
Sharpened by readings of French intellectuals, frontman Elias Rønnenfelt’s lyrics are at their most visceral. “There’s a vile fury within us despite what you’ve been fed,” he declares during Everything Drifts, hinting at the hyper-awareness that hangs over the record like a dirge. Whether through pained, dead-eyed grunts or the unhinged screams of “excess!”, his unpredictable vocal delivery meets this at every turn, capturing the intensity of their inimitable live performances.
The well-placed Interlude continues the band’s polarising penchant for fascist imagery, smothering the record in atmosphere with militaristic drumming and the sound of approaching helicopters. It might feel forced coming from four baby-faced teens, but it’s an illustration of how punk uses youth as a catalyst to explore more mature themes.
Each stride made with You’re Nothing feels necessary, but at times this sonic exploration comes at the expense of melody. What made their debut so staggering was its balance between unyielding aggression and simple yet memorable guitar hooks. Here though, tracks such as It Might Hit First leave the rage uncultivated, rendering it dry and unmemorable.
Still, by giving a tired genre some much-needed maturity, You’re Nothing mostly succeeds in its attempt to redefine the short-fused punk song. There may be no less than four punk bands using the same name, but musically Iceage aren’t simply going through the motions. That alone makes them smart.