Review: "You're Nothing"
by Alexander Jones | published Oct. 6th, 2013
One of the most consistent disappointments or highlights of being a punk fan is listening to the sophomore album of a band you like. In most cases, the youthful fury and nihilistic self-destruction that go hand in hand with punk tends to cause bands to completely burn out before they can enter the studio or to half-heartedly release something bland and uninspired. However, there are rare occasions in which a punk band’s second record is just as good if not better than their highly lauded debut. With their second LP “You’re Nothing,” Danish post-punkers Iceage have done exactly that, in a truly awe-inspiring way.
Iceage first entered the collective punk consciousness in 2011 when they tore through the Copenhagen DIY punk scene with their ferocious debut album “New Brigade.” Along with the collection of angular scorchers that were featured on the album came a great deal of chatter about Iceage’s members’ ages (at the time they averaged around 17 or 18) and the intensity and violence that their live shows evoked. Now two years later with “You’re Nothing,” Iceage has finally separated themselves enough from their own mystery to create a record that truly stands on its own.
“You’re Nothing” opens with the massive guitar swell and resulting caterwaul of the appropriately titled “Ecstasy,” where eternally-breathless front man Elias Bender Rønnenfelt howls, “What shade of joy will hit me first? I hope it lasts,” with the honesty and intensity that only someone his age could muster. Album highlight “Coalition” follows, finding Iceage taking a crack at writing a “girl problems” song in an appropriately brainy yet vague way (“She gives me signals but our hearts are not the same”, “Something denies coalition with you”), and the buzz saw guitars and the chant of “Excess!” that follow in the chorus cause the whole experience to be a singularly amazing piece of music.
Like so many bands before them, Iceage take more liberties with experimentation on their sophomore album. While the jagged riffs and moaned chorus of “In Haze” and the anthem like “Everything Drifts” (“Raise your fist for the depraved roses, raise it today”) are undeniable punk gems, what makes “You’re Nothing” a full-formed and captivating record are the tracks where Iceage pull back on the reins and give their songs a bit more room to breathe. The dark, industrial dirge of “Interlude” is an excellent change of pace from the teeth-gritting ferocity of the rest of the record. “Morals,” arguably the best song on the album, is incredibly moving, featuring a marching bass-line and a somber piano over which Rønnenfelt cries, “If I could leave my body, then I would. Bleed into a lake, dashing away, disappear.”
"You’re Nothing” closes with the barn-burning title track which bursts forth with glorious bent-string fury and what appears to be Iceage’s mission statement: “That’s right, you’re nothing. Feel the void grow.” While a particularly bleak message on paper, the track feels like it’s almost bursting at the seams with youthful optimism. Clocking in at just around two minutes, the band sounds like they’re spinning out of control and reveling in every last second of it. The cries of “You’re nothing!” that close the album aren’t an angst-ridden aural black cloud but rather a ray of hope that seems to encourage the listener to take solace in their cosmic insignificance and as clichéd as it may seem, make the most of each and every day.
Iceage could have broken up directly after the release of “New Brigade” and cemented themselves in history as a moment-in-time, “you had to be there” folk tale, but “You’re Nothing” showcases a band brave (and young) enough to push forward and take some serious risks along the way. It could have been a complete failure and Iceage could have exited the punk lexicon with their tails tucked between their legs, but “You’re Nothing” is a near-perfect punk record whose twenty-six minutes are worth every single second of your time.