The Icarus Line - Penance Soiree - Review
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critics' view

So serious, they are. Icarus Line have always trumpeted squawk over rock convention, but Penance Soiree jacks that ante from the very first measure of "Up Against the Wall." Sneering like a crack whore Mick Jagger ("Why can't I get some fo' free?!") and swallowing the bassline howl whole, Icarus vocalist Joe Cardamone makes sex the type of thing to be scared of. There's post-punk in here — that angularness that's the rage with operators too cool for things like "smelling nice" and "having a job." Icarus Line will attract these couture ghouls, no question. But Penance Soiree might also have true and valorous mass appeal, a shelf life past its buzz as an export from the land of inky black hair styles. Don't doubt it: Icarus Line are crazy. But listen to that melodic preen in "Spike Island," and the way its guitars roar and teeter for an unavoidable groove — this isn't the inaccessible intellectualism of Mars Volta, or Liars' distempered noise quackery.

No, Icarus Line are uniters, not dividers. Even when "On the Lash" loses interest in its cracked psychedelia and rides Cardamone's reverbed wail into a pile of ridiculous static muck, it reengages with fresh crackling fury. "I can feeeeeeeel it," he screams over the pound, and it's better than hearing Van Halen for the very first time. The rest of Soiree is no slouch, either, cleverly weaving between the cones of insularity and throbbing accessibility. "Getting Bright at Night" is nine minutes of Karl Wallinger binging on old 4AD records, the beat-damaged "Caviar" invites the world to its druggy key party, and "Virgin Velcro" tears a hole in the disco ball to find strutting heavy metal inside. As serious as things get on Penance Soiree (and the choppy "Spit On" gets pretty serious), there's the happily nagging notion that Icarus Line just want to entertain, and that they're damn good at it. The notion pays off in the last two minutes. "Party the Baby Off," behind all that squelch and trebly production, is just T. Rex classic rock with a message for the kids: "Tonight, take off all your clothes." Icarus Line — pop's new heartthrobs.

Johnny Loftus
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