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Album Review: Iceage's 'You're Nothing'

Uncompromising Danish noise-punks return to the shadows

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Your options are A) "excess" or B) "exist." One of those words is caterwauled by Iceage vocalist Elias Bender Rønnenfelt on "Coalition," the frantic second track on You're Nothing. On Pitchfork, Ian Cohen decided the lyric was "excess," but loop the slurred chorus a few times, and you'll have to toss a coin to decide which is accurate. Still, what does it matter? Both "excess" and "exist" could describe humanity at its wretched nadir. As plain-clothed, po-faced and bullshit-allergic punks, Iceage's four Copenhagen-based rapscallions likely despise capitalism, greed, commercialism and conspicuous consumption. Yet if there's one thing they are liable to loathe more than over-the-top living, it's living at all. These are kids who salivate over death wishes.

Soon after Iceage exploded in the press in 2011 and once-micro indie label What's Your Rupture? issued their debut New Brigade, Bender Rønnenfelt did an interview on The New York Times T Magazine blog. "We want to record another full-length," he said. "I'm not going to be playing when I'm old. ... I don't know any bands that have careers we envy." Keep in mind that everyone in Iceage is still in his teens or just outgrew them. From a cynic's eye, aging means weakening and compromising – changes Iceage would likely outright refuse.

Like New Brigade, You're Nothing is uncontrollable. Iceage tether '80s noise-rock bloodletting, '80s hardcore punk pain and '80s post-punk minimalism to frightening blasts of silence, quarter-intelligible lyrics about pain and loneliness (plus, with "Rodfæstet," a song in Danish) and a touch of melody to remind you of the daylight so far away. The distortion creaks like rusty chains being rip-sawed apart, and the blend of gloom and rage is almost purifying. You're Nothing isn't unusual nor insightful, nor daring for its genre, but its cathartic drama, bleak palette and occasional awkward maneuver keep it honest and memorable. Savor Iceage's misery while you can.

★★★ (out of 5 stars)

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