Rumpus Sound Takes: Inside Outside


New Brigade
(What’s Your Rupture?)

Perhaps because the band consists of four clean-cut Danish teenagers, Iceage’s brash, discordant punk has made it the darlings of both the Pitchfork and the Maximumrocknroll sets. Whatever one says about its music, Iceage certainly thrashes, and isn’t too listener-friendly, either. While punk has come to denote a sprawling genre that includes mainstream acts, Iceage’s music owes far more to hardcore bands from the early 1980s than it does to Green Day—which is perhaps why Iceage is being hailed as a savior.

Whether Iceage plays a convincing replica, the real thing, or something in between, it does so well enough to convert all but the most strident naysayers. Propelled by the bass guitar, employing sudden, abrupt tempo shifts, with one and sometimes two tinny guitars riffing and chording in imperfect time with one another, the band’s sudden bursts of melody surprise as much as the intricacy of its arrangements. If you like one track, you’ll like them all; if you have favorites, there’s still not a dud among them.

In part because its concepts boil down to the familiar stuff of rock and roll, New Brigade gets across remarkably well, considering how many of Iceage’s English-language lyrics remain unintelligible. Despite the militaristic allusions, “White Rune” and the title track concern belonging and the doomed pursuit of the unattainable other. Anthems in spite of themselves, “Remember” and “You’re Blessed” contain moments of surprising lyricism that work against the cold surface of the band’s sound.

Musically, New Brigade sometimes sounds derivative, but find a band of 19-year-old punks whose album doesn’t sound derivative. New Brigade also stops short of being the revelation it’s sometimes made out to be. And yes, one might hope for a greater degree of intelligibility. Nevertheless, because the music so successfully embodies the raw contradictions of growing up—a desire for belonging coupled with a feeling that belonging is impossible—the band turns the age-old trick of making the old sound new.


Tom Andes has published fiction in Witness, Natural Bridge, News from the Republic of Letters, the Akashic Books Mondays Are Murder Flash Fiction Blog, Best American Mystery Stories 2012, and elsewhere. He lives in New Orleans and can be found here: @thomaseandes. More from this author →