Release Date: Aug 6, 2013
Record label: Agitated
With each successive album, the Icarus Line has strayed further and further away from the rigorously enforced, ultra-minimalist “hardcore” subgenre in which they're often lumped (Wikipedia lists them as “post-hardcore,” which is at least chronologically accurate). The band's latest, Slave Vows, forges more of their own identity into the Jesus and Mary Chain fandom hinted at on 2007's Black Lives at the Golden Coast. This isn't cover-band homage anymore; the Icarus Line has grifted the surly cool, bitter fury, and obliterating noise of Honey's Dead and made it all their own.
Penance Soiree is one of the weirder flash-in-a-pan moments of the ‘00s. The album, the sophomore outing by the Los Angeles rockers of the Icarus Line, was hugely acclaimed throughout the year of its release, and it later went on to get a spot in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, a daunting achievement considering the group still had yet to really jump out into the rock scene in a significant way. Yet in the on-going discussion about “the death of rock ‘n’ roll” and the many sub-discussions involved therein (which, to be honest, are a little silly and overblown), at best the Icarus Line will get a passing mention in a footnote, and the only thing that’ll be referenced is Penance.
Review Summary: A defiant mix of robust post-punk and hypnotic psychedelia.When making music, spontaneity often outweighs the larger amount of time required for a meticulous creative process. Joe Cardamone came to this conclusion while producing more and more records of young acts. His post-punk outfit The Icarus Line have been an integral part of LA's underground scene for nearly 15 years putting out four notable albums in the process, yet they've only just decided to venture into a rapid way of doing things on their new release.
In an age when most albums are slaved over, tweaked, polished, cut into a million pieces and reassembled into an unrecognisable shape, and generally treated like the culmination of a century’s work rather than simply a collection of songs, there’s something almost romantic in the simple idea of pointing a microphone at the band and – George Martin style – shouting “play!”. For that is how The Icarus Line have made Slave Vows. Well, alright, they probably pointed about 15 microphones at the snare drum alone.
For a band that secured notoriety through an unhinged mastery of spitting, snarling punk rock prowess (not to mention their many extra-curricular acts of antisocial vandalism and Durst-molesting comedy terrorism), The Icarus Line’s last album felt tired, conservative and jetlagged. A half-hearted attempt to showcase Joe Cardamone’s ability to actually write proper songs, 2011’s distinctly un-wild Wildlife resembled a parallel-universe Rolling Stones who had never hit the big time, carried on taking grubby drugs while gigging in toilets, replaced a couple of members with a burnt-out Stooge and a dead New York Doll, and sneezed out a demo LP to post off to EMI between dismal shifts at the KFC fowl-slaughtering factory. So essentially better than the bloated, Thatcher-snuggling behemoth that the real Rolling Stones became, just not up to The Icarus Line’s usual frenzied standards.
From 11-minute psychedelic wig-outs to two-minute distortion rackets, album number five from LA rockers The Icarus Line is titled with heavy irony. This band are slaves to nothing but their own commitment to the base passions of rock’n’roll, refusing to bow to fashion or trend. Influences such as The Stooges and MC5 were cultural watchwords when the band released their 2001 debut, ‘Mono’.
The past couple years haven't been too kind to Los Angeles sleaze merchants Icarus Line. In fact, when you come to think of it, the band's entire career has been something of a slog for frontman Joe Cardamone and his seemingly ever-rotating cast of players. Gaining some attention with their 2001 debut Mono, their real breakthrough came two years later with the searing Penance Soiree, a criminally overlooked album that seethed with danger and wit.
I’ve learned, over two decades and change of really quite serious record listening, that few are the artists who have even one masterpiece inside of them. Rarer still are the artists who can repeat this trick. We can debate this in the comments thread later, maybe (Stevie Wonder and Neil Young are two immediate exceptions to this and pretty much every rule).
It’s hard to think of Icarus Line frontman/catalyst Joe Cardamone as anything but a doomed figure. Not because he signed a bad sphincter-clenching record deal or has three square meals of meth daily or any of the other clichés that inevitably plague people who make furious, passionate, clinically bent rock music. Given the antiseptic tastes of music fans, Cardamone could make better bank being an assistant for some vacuous Hollywood figure or manage the life of some pop starlet and scoop 20 percent off the top.
All evidence might be to the contrary, but Joe Cardamone is a born survivor. Against the odds, he’s dragged his one-band resistance movement The Icarus Line through 15 years of bridge-burning live shows and four albums of caustic gutterpunk noise, all the while finding the time to build his own studio and play a fuller part in the band’s production. Of course, financial rewards are few and far between at the fringes of the US underground, and there have been heavy casualties along the way – band members drop in and out of The Icarus Line’s unpredictable line-up, and guitarist Aaron North, a major presence during the band’s early years, defected to Nine Inch Nails in 2005 before quitting music altogether a few years later.
The Icarus Line has spent most of its career hewing a 21st century version of decadent glam out of the edifice of indie rock. But for its fifth LP Slave Vows, the band picks up the threads of creeping psychedelia that have long been detectable in its quirky rawk blasts, unraveling the old tapestry and rolling around in the pile of yarn left behind. Riding waves of raging feedback, aggressive rhythms and blazing guitar fury, leader Joe Cardamone alternately seethes and wails, hissing like a reformed black metal vokillist one minute and roaring like a drug-addled Mick Jagger the next.