When Iceage released their debut LP New Brigade in 2011, as much attention was given to the fact they were a group of nihilistic high school heart-throbs as their sub-thirty minute offering of prickly punk micro-anthems. Frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt’s lyrics were jumbled but redolent of ardent angst. The instrumentation was indistinguishable – a product of low-budget lo-fi, but the messy, Gothic throb was dazzling.
Iceage’s execution was wildly flailing and effective. Hype built and was complemented by blood-spattered stage antics, tongue-in-cheek merchandise (including knives and locks of the band members’ hair) and precocious promises: “I’m not going to be playing when I’m old”, declared a nineteen-year-old Bender Rønnenfelt to the New York Times; “I don’t know any bands that have careers we envy”. Beyond the percolating hype, however, lay the question of whether or not the Danish wunderkinder’s chaos could be sustained.
“Pressure, pressure / Oh God, no!”
To the sceptics, You’re Nothing is the perfect rejoinder. Two years later and now on a larger label, Iceage are a more refined outfit, but their unbridled, brittle aggression hasn’t been tempered by the polish. If anything, stylistically, this self-produced serving is even more gristly and rancorous. Album opener ‘Ecstasy’ sets the tone, a mash of furious, caustic guitar hooks, insistent drums and strangled howls that could fool you into thinking Rønnenfelt really can’t “take this pressure”. Full, rumbling rhythms persist in songs such as ‘In Haze’ and ‘Coaltion’, but the sounds, though more developed, are far from the “Excess!” of which Rønnenfelt spits.
‘It Might Hit First’ is a crushing chunk of hardcore abrasion, but perhaps the most arresting track is ‘Morals’, a jagged, punching piano “ballad” influenced by Italian 60s pop singer Mina. Contemplative and evocative, it’s a demonstration of Iceage’s substance (albeit it dark and melancholy) beyond snarling, indecipherable mini-anthems.
“If I could / Leave my body, then I would / Bleed into a lake / Dashing away / Disappear.”
You’re Nothing, much like New Brigade, is an urgent affair which hurtles towards an eponymous, jangling album closer and leaves nothing to be unpacked. A slew of contradictions, the album is furious and messy, thoughtful and cathartic. And despite its bleak title, You’re Nothing is more than just a short, catchy exercise in adolescent nihilism – it’s full of compelling feeling and uncompromising truth.
“I hope / It lasts / A burst / In bliss.”