Iceage | smart and naive can be a dangerous combination too
By Louis Pattison
Editor’s Note: Louis sent me an email last night, concerned that Scott and myself might have got hold of the wrong end of the stick, far as Iceage are concerned. (For more details, go here and here.) Louis is a man I trust – he’s the former Editor of Plan B Magazine, and a keen and considered music critic – so when he gets in touch to correct me on something, I take note. I thought his email raised several interesting points and so I asked him for permission to reprint it here.
Dialogue. Music criticism is dialogue. Always has been, always will be.
How’s it going? I’ve been meaning to email you about this Iceage thing, just to tell you a little bit about my experience with the band.
I like both the Iceage records a lot. I’ve interviewed them, I guess four times, a couple of times in Copenhagen. They’re quite shy/cagey the first time you meet them, the fourth time not so much.
The second time I interviewed Elias, Iceage’s singer, was in Copenhagen last summer. I sat down with him and some other local ‘scene’ sorts – people from other Copenhagen bands like Lower, Sexdrome, etc. We discussed racism, runes, Nazis, sieg heils. They gave broadly the right answers, those being: They’re not racists. The Copenhagen scene is, if you need to put a word on it, left-wing. They don’t have a problem with immigration. They have no “agenda”. They’re more interested in the personal than the political. While I was there, Elias, the singer, spoke on a panel called The Europe Lectures held at the city’s art school, which dealt with European culture and the dangers of expression of such tipping over into nationalism (it was all in Danish, but summarised for me afterwards). I’m aware this could all be a line, some sort of damage control to trick the gullible prying English music journalist and protect their burgeoning indie-rock career, but I don’t think so. They strike me as nothing if not sincere.
I think Scott thought his piece was being forensic but I think it was actually a bit lazy. It seems to be mostly based on that ‘Chic racism’ blog that circulated 18 or so months ago, but ignoring much of the discussion that it engendered (that blog was a point of discussion in much of the band’s first run of UK press, NME and Kerrang included). I don’t get the impression he’s read that much about the band, or has particularly listened to them. I feel a bit like the stuff that didn’t really fit with his premise, he left out. That Dan, the drummer is Jewish, certainly doesn’t dispel all these questions, but nor is it irrelevant.
The stuff about them being afraid to appear a pussy… well, here’s Elias (left) and his friend, Loke.
Here’s a video by the band they’re in together, Var.
I think the piece you wrote is interesting, and I think you’re on the right track in terms of the touchstones you mention. At Incubate Festival in Tilburg late last year, I went to see Laibach with Elias. He – and I – would agree with you, they’re hilarious.
But I think both you and Scott misinterpret the source of the music. I don’t think either the first album or the new album deal in a “currency of nastiness”. The first one, broadly, is about the scene in Copenhagen, and the nature of close friendship. The second one seems to me to be very emotionally troubled. There’s a little bit of “fuck the world” in there, but the ‘You’re Nothing’ of the title track is aimed internally. ‘Coalition’ – the one Scott reckons is meaningless – seems to me to be a piece about sexuality, but that’s speculation on my part. If you can’t make out the lyrics, Matador can send you a lyric sheet (or they’re printed in full on the album sleeve).
The stuff I’ve written on Iceage has mostly appeared in print. Writing for print these days can be a strange thing – you sometimes get the sense that if an interview doesn’t make it onto the web, it didn’t happen. I had a piece published in NME a couple of weeks ago (February 9, Hurts cover) in which we discuss some of the above in a bit of detail.
Couple of brief snippets.
Johan: “When we first came out it seemed exciting to do something that was mysterious. But now a certain simplicity, getting to the point, feels more interesting.”
Elias: “I don’t think any of us have the ideological clarity to write straightforward political stuff. But if you write about yourself, or about society, you can be doubtful. You can be disillusioned. That is what interests us.”
I’m sure I’m not going to change anyone’s mind who has already decided Iceage are baddies. But I have read so much about this band that’s only half-informed, and so much that seems radically different to what I hear in the music and what I hear from the mouths of the band members. As regards the way they chose to present themselves early on, they certainly had some questions to answer. Personally, I don’t think they’re racist OR stupid. Although I think being smart and naive can be a pretty dangerous combination too.
They’re Joy Division and they’re being treated like they’re Skrewdriver. Perhaps they’ve brought it on themselves, a bit, but I think it’s a pity.
This blog kills fascists.
THE ALTERNATIVE REVIEW | Iceage – You’re Nothing (Matador)
Iceage | Who makes the Nazis?
Iceage | an open letter to Louis Pattison
the interview | Iceage want you to know that they’re not fascists