Friend of the program Devon Maloney wrote a thing about the band Iceage today, and I was going to write a different thing about Iceage until things got shuffled around and now I’m not anymore, so instead of jogging this afternoon I organized some thoughts on the former and some thoughts that were originally going to find their way into the latter. Mostly: Iceage are getting really popular, and it’s weird, but not that weird.
It’s a pretty predictable path: A band coming up on the strength of the tides of sub-trends in a musical community (either by accident or by accurately predicting them), then being willing and able to exchange their subcultural cache for regular-cultural cache before the trends they came up on dry out.
It would be tough to overstate, for example, the amount of totally-justified sway Fucked Up had in the Actual Hardcore community (Actual Hardcore meaning house show-attending, Infest shirt-wearing, can-name-more-than-five-Discharge-songs formalist hardcore) around the time Hidden World came out. I know a (legitimately well-adjusted) dude who got a tattoo referencing a HW-era Fucked Up song before the song was released. FU then pulled an extremely crafty bait-and-switch, becoming a (good) heavy indie rock band and exploding their fanbase while continuing to signify “hardcore” and all the tuff authenticity that modern hardcore has more or less eaten itself in order to maintain.
Iceage, for their part, came out with New Brigade, a really good record that both asked to be taken Emotionally Seriously and that obliquely referenced the occult (thereby riding the then-recently-crested wave of Mysterious Guy Hardcore), and which featured enough dark vibes to ensure a spot in the then-rising wave of punks getting into goth. (N.B.: Those Tampa guys are really good at this, having been the arguable peak of MGHC with Cult Ritual and now being the arguable peak of Punks Liking Goth Now with Merchandise.)
While Danish punk is no stranger to blatant genre exercises (Gorilla Angreb ruled and when I put them on the other night my roommate refused to believe we weren’t listening to X), Iceage’s youth make me doubt there was much intentionality behind New Brigade capturing the zeitgeist or whatever it did. Signing to Matador and generally doing the let’s-get-really-popular dance, though, has shown that their ambition matches their dedication to the craft, and it’ll be interesting to see how they move forward songwise and how willing they are to alienate fans (and which fans they’re willing to alienate, cf that thing recently where Merchandise people named their tour that terrible thing and it was probably on purpose).
Bands who get their start in conservative subcultures breaking out of those subcultures is always weird and reminds everybody both how weird conservative subcultures are and how (increasingly!) weird the process of such a band getting popular is. Back when everybody had a million dollars, it wouldn’t be out of bounds to suggest Iceage would eventually turn into Soundgarden. Now it seems fair to assume that if they stick around Iceage will end up like the Black Lips or something; populist synechdoche for a codified scene that a lot of people are curious about but don’t have the time or money or energy or interest to really delve into. This is important: Iceage are getting famous (and, probably, at least kind of rich) by standing on the back of a subculture that’s incredibly, religiously important to a whole lot of people. Iceage punks or Black Lips garage dudes or Skrillex dancers who haven’t paid their dues (be it by familiarizing themselves with record arcana or just by attending a lot of terrible/great small shows) are like Easter Catholics, getting a simulacrum (Devon’s word, not mine) of the ecstatic intensity of the scene’s climaxes without any of the toil that’s supposed to make the climax a climax.
Unrelated, but related: Iceage have a lot in common with Odd Future. Subcultural tourism but the music is pretty good, hatred of the adult as a strong theme, giving everyday youth-type emotional tension an apocalyptic vibe, etc.
This is a really long-winded way of saying I drunkenly purchased a Killdozer shirt the other night, and the more I think about it, the more I should sell all my other possessions. Who wants to give me a stick and poke that says “intellectuals are the shoeshine boys of the ruling elite”?