THE ALTERNATIVE REVIEW | Iceage – You’re Nothing (Matador)
“Thanks to Jerry for standing at the Door when nobody else would” – sleeve-notes to Alive In The Living Room (1984)
1. Death In June played the original Creation Records/Alan McGee London venue The Living Room in ’83. It was a bad mismatch. Suggested by a contact at Rough Trade, the music was OK – intense, surly, repetitive – but the audience showed up in uniform. The rest of Alan’s friends buggered off down the road, leaving me and him there feeling uneasy. I remember the jackboots, that’s the abiding image. There was no suggestion (at the time) that the band might have any form of right wing leanings but… man. Those jackboots. (I didn’t stay out of a sense of ‘freedom of speech’. I stayed out of loyalty to a beleaguered friend.)
2. Laibach are hilarious. Correct?
3. It was the early-mid 80s. Skrewdriver showed up uninvited with about 100 of their supporters at a Membranes gig in Cricklewood, London – apparently, because both bands were from Blackpool or something. It was one of the scariest concerts I’ve witnessed. Memories include an oblivious Coofy Sid (drums) laying out all the metal poles and implements for the crowd to bang together (as was the Membranes’ wont back then – remind me to tell you one day about how McGee based the Mary Chain’s entire early shtik around a Membranes show he saw).
I was standing at the back thinking, fuck, I don’t want to be here – but the band were sleeping on my floor that night (only minutes away). Round about that point my mate Geoff the Postman started dancing down the front and a couple of massive skins slammed into him – so I thought, fuck it, and started dancing too… Bam! Couple of massive skins jump me, John Robb leaps down off stage into their faces… and for 10 seconds I was quite sure we were all going to die (there were only a handful of us Membranes fans present). To this day, I still don’t understand why we didn’t… except there was some bloke present who was clearly a British Movement organiser, who was going round saying, “C’mon lads, no need to fight, we’re all on the same side”. I guess we all had the ‘correct’ skin colour.
A memory: sitting on the toilet downstairs, while a skin’s bashing on the door, trying to push it in. I’m zipping myself up as he bursts in. “What the fuck took you so long?” he asks jovially. “Thought you was having a wank in there.” Fat chance, I reply – the amount of time you gave me. We both have a laugh.
A memory: a Scots lass standing at the back door while Skrewdriver are playing, hurling insult after insult at them. “Fuck,” I thought. “Either she’s just about the bravest person I’ve ever seen, or the stupidest.” I met her again, years later (she became press agent for Rough Trade Records) and asked her about the night. “I had no fucking idea what was going on,” she admitted.
Another memory: while John was dismantling the mics, a massive skin comes up, asks him if he’s having trouble, whips a knife out his boot, and cuts the lead off, saying, “You should be careful mate. Some of the lads here scare me.”
We drove out of there with a police escort, the sound of bottles smashing against the side of the van.
First time I stayed on Calvin Johnson’s floor in Olympia, we exchanged heated words over a Skrewdriver newspaper cutting he’d pasted on his wall. He wasn’t aware of the ultra-right wing connotations.
4. When I was 16, I drew a swastika on the inside of my thigh a couple of times. I knew it was forbidden. I didn’t think about what it represented. I knew Siouxsie And The Banshees used it as some form of fetishistic sexual expression. The wrongness of it all was very powerful, very erotic. If you didn’t stop to think. (I also used to lay trails of petrol down corridors and set light to the end when I heard people coming, and try to burn down people’s front gardens. It was the wrongness… you understand?)
5. If you read the music press during 1978 and 1979, you were aware of the fascistic overtones surrounding Joy Division’s aesthetic. We didn’t buy into the Fascism, not at all. We bought into the alienation, the lack of self-awareness, the narcissistic self-immolation. After Ian Curtis’ death, I sat on third flight window-sills and imagined myself possessed my his spirit and hurled whiskey bottles at students. I imagine I wasn’t the only one. The nastiness, the blackness and bleakness, is a lot of the attraction.
Iceage – the name comes from this aesthetic, right?
How is it rebellious to bleakly support a point of view held by a great section of your country’s population? How is it rebellious to pick on minorities? I can understand the sexual pull of wrongness, but to take it into public where it can seriously harm people?
Does watching the films of Quentin Tarantino automatically make you a sexist dick?
6. Me and this feller were arguing with a bunch of skins in front of us at a Slits gig once, 1982 or thereabouts. The brilliant experimental prog-punk Camberwell band This Heat were playing and we were fed up with the skins’ heckles. One of the skins whips out a knife and stabs my companion. “What did you do that for?” I asked, as he fell on the ground. “Felt like it. You want some?”
7. The B-side of my first single, ‘Melt The Guns’ was about taking a pacifist approach to a real-life incident outside Rough Trade record shop where four punks beat up a Mod (or vice versa). I was rightly pilloried for it at the time by Tony Fletcher in Jamming. Damn fucking straight. I was being a cowardly prick.
8. Who says authenticity is irrelevant to indie kids? The second Iceage album is nasty, surly, brutish. To those who love to live vicariously, that’s its thrill. The music is fine, if you like being bludgeoned – it sounds remarkably similar to much of what’s going down on the Aus underground scene in 2013, which makes me think it’s probably got a fair few supporters among same. Personally, I prefer music with some personality or humour or imagination but I do admit that’s probably missing the point here. (Like criticising Bowie for being a chameleon or a fraud.) It ain’t half as punk as either of the following, but whatever, you know:
I can’t make out a word beyond the sullenness. Sullen is good. Here’s what crucial, though. If music is to be deemed authentic – a core appeal of this sort of music, right? – then… I loved Poison Girls cos it felt like they were on my side and they understood what I understood. No fucking way do Iceage understand shit about my life, or most people’s lives (beyond the fact “we’re all alienated”… yawn). Pathetic 20-somethings still wishing they were teenage, still flirting with the forbidden even though they should have moved on years and years ago. If you deal in the currency of nastiness then don’t be surprised if people call you out on it.
This blog kills fascists.
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