ISSUE #8 FEB 06

Will

Test Icicles
"For Screening Purposes Only"

For Screening Purposes Only
reviewer: Will
rating: 4 out of 5
published by: Domino Records
released: 31st October 2005
  1. Your Biggest Mistake
  2. Pull The Lever
  3. Interlude
  4. Boa Vs Python
  5. Circle. Square. Triangle
  6. Catch It!
  7. Maintain The Focus
  8. Snowball
  9. What's Your Damage
  10. All You Need Is Blood
  11. Sharks
  12. Dancing On Pegs
  13. Party On Dudes (Get Hype) / What's Michelle Like

Test Icicles started out as a self-confessed "joke band", playing gigs for friends and recording four-tracks for a laugh. No-one expected them to stay together more than a week, least of all the band themselves, and the idea of them releasing a single seemed laughable. So, with their highly improbable debut album released on Hallowe'en and second single ‘Circle. Square. Triangle’ getting rotation on MTV2 it seems things have turned out right for the band that used to call themselves Balls. And yet something about them seems very, very wrong.

Rock rock rock pink rock rock
Rock rock rock pink rock rock

One listen to their disco beats and angular guitars is enough to label the band as part of the extremely current punk-funk scene, but they actually draw less on punk than on metal. All three Icicles play guitar at various points, and they've obviously learnt their craft listening to many an Iron Maiden LP, as can be heard on the wonderfully OTT album closer ‘Party On Dudes (Get Hype)’. Such old-skool metal licks make surprisingly good bedfellows with the album's other ingredients: techno, hip-hop, lyrics about sharks and poison, and screaming.

There's a lot of screaming on this record. In general I'm not a fan of screamo (it smacks of trying too hard - I'm looking at you, Funeral For A Friend) but whoever's on vocal duties (again, all three members swap and change) sounds like he's bawling his little lungs out not because he wants to impress on you how much emotional pain and suffering he's in, but because he's GENUINELY DERANGED. This is screaming from the Craig Nichols school, though possibly without the Big Mac addiction. You can't listen without grinning and/or developing an instant desire to see the band play live (they're on tour at the moment, and by all accounts it's pretty chaotic).

Singles ‘Boa Vs Python’ and ‘Circle. Square. Triangle’ are predictably the most accessible tracks here, the former a dense blast of gonzo noise-punk, the latter rivalling The Bravery for dance-rock sheen - with added rap! Elsewhere the taut, punchy ‘What's Your Damage?’ and the almost Bloc Party-ish ‘Pull The Lever’ seem ready-made for student union dancefloors across the country, but not every track is as polished. Halfway through we're given ‘Catch It’ which lurches from messy speed metal to even messier electronica to, well, incomprehensible noise (with plenty of screaming thrown in). The whole thing lasts three and a half minutes, and sounds like it was written, recorded and mixed in the same amount of time - obviously it's been included on the album to show us just how "arty" and "outta control" this band are. Thanks for that. Similarly, hidden track ‘What's Michelle Like?’ (”she lived in Saudi Arabia/well she would, wouldn't she?”) might sound half-decent if it weren't played at a quarter speed.

It's not all shambolic rock noise though: nice musical touches, like creepy carnival-esque organ or soulful "yeah-yeah" harmonies, elevate most tracks and give proof that the Icicles have at least a vague idea of what they're doing – as does Merrann's sideline career providing electro-metal remixes for such bands as The Kills and Redjetson.

So: incongruous musical influences; questionable fashion sense; dangerous levels of energy; and an apparent disregard for professionalism or quality control. God knows how long they'll be together, or even if they'll make another record, but right now Test Icicles are one of the most unique, exciting and just plain fun acts in rock. Grab 'em while they're hot.