By Nathan Smith
In 2013, I got burned out on rock and roll. If you’d seen the ballot for my Best Albums list, it would’ve been clear- the kid who got into music by using too much whammy bar on Guitar Hero had decided to leave the button-mashing to someone else. While I’m not one to claim that an entire genre could ever die, straight-up rock just didn’t interest me. I was tired of the beer hats, tired of the same three chords, but mostly I was tired of the elitism that sometimes insinuates and sometimes loudly proclaims that the genres I love most (rap and electronic) aren’t “real music.”
But after a few months, I found my way back. I returned to some of the rock I loved as a kid (KISS, Boston), more emotive forms of guitar music (Galaxie 500, My Bloody Valentine), and that of fuzzed-out, unafraid weirdos (Diarrhea Planet, Perfect Pussy, Cloud Nothings). It’s that last crowd that this week’s track falls in with.
Danish noise-punk group Iceage’s last album, You’re Nothing, was one of our favorites of 2013, but I didn’t listen to all of it, and I haven’t heard anything else of the group’s work outside of that album’s first few tracks. My initial impressions might be skewed, but if Iceage’s latest, the drunkenly orgasmic “The Lord’s Favorite,” has any connection at all to their older work, then I’m in love. There’s something about the track that returns rock to its purest, most unadulterated strains, but to say such would be to spout the same elitist rock rhetoric that I hate, and besides, there’s something weirder going on.
It’s the kind of music that makes kids trade cigarettes for heroin, cargo shorts for comically tight jeans, “Make Room for Jesus” for sloppy spurts into your (and other people’s) sheets. “The Lord’s Favorite” has that same cramped, bursting energy as Elvis strutting his pelvis, Iggy Pop shattering a bottle against his bare chest, or Sid Vicious pissing on “My Way.” There’s something obviously sacrilegious about “The Lord’s Favorite,” like an altar boy who gets a hard-on as he changes into his robes, but something sacred too. I’m reminded in particular of the Violent Femmes’ first record, and like the greatest rock music, it’s trangressively sexual and uncomfortably spiritual at the same time. Rock music calls to us from on high, but it calls to our bodies, our private parts, our most holy of holies, not our minds. Rock and roll isn’t just a genre, it’s a church. With no taboo left unturned, in a way that I don’t fully understand, rock and roll enters the temple of our bodies and burns it to the ground.
Iceage might present themselves as pimped-out rockabilly studs, but if rock and roll is anything, it’s ahistoric; they don’t take their lineage too seriously. Like another subversive Scandinavian musician, Yung Lean, Iceage strips down their respective genre to nothing but its most obvious visual and sonic signifiers, and then runs the whole thing through back and forth through Google Translate a few times. Iceage knows the intended definitions of both “rock” and “roll,” but in the process, as their original sexuality, self-loathing, homoeroticism, and monk-like thirst for suffering are restored, they become words that can’t quite bridge the language gap. There’s something lost in translation, both for us and for them, but that only makes their seductive powers stronger. It’s something we can’t quite comprehend, but it turns us on anyway.
Iceage’s most recent record, You’re Nothing, is available via Matador Records. According to their YouTube, “new music is coming soon.”