By: Eric Greenwood
The testosterone overload on The Icarus Line's debut full-length makes you wonder if there's something the band is trying to compensate for. It's almost too good to be true. The full-throttle punk rock assault may be a carbon copy of Drive Like Jehu's patented California sound, but it shakes you senseless nonetheless. Squalling guitars clash with bombastic rhythms in an explosive melee that leaves you utterly exhausted. This is solid rock- there's no denying it, but as much as I enjoy being knocked out by wailing guitars, I also can't help but feel slightly cheated by the utter lack of innovation or surprise on Mono.
Maybe punk rock isn't supposed to be surprising or new; maybe it's just supposed to bowl you over with its sheer intensity, and, if that's the case, then this record is an instant classic. As much as I'd like to believe that, though, I still wonder how the members of The Icarus Line justify this blatant thievery to themselves. As temperamental and abrasive as Mono is, you can still predict every single change and progression on it. It melds perfectly the drunken debauchery of garage bands like the New Bomb Turks with the relentless anxiety of myriad punk rock staples from Seaweed to Clawhammer to Black Flag. The real kicker is Joe Cardamone's manic inflection. He's a dead ringer for Drive Like Jehu's Rick Froberg when he screams.
It's only natural to imitate your favorite bands, so as long as you do it just as well or better it's easy to look the other way. This is The Icarus Line's first proper full-length, so the appropriate amount of slack will be cut. These guys are barely old enough to drink (to put it in perspective- they were in fifth grade when Nevermind hit it big), so it's pretty impressive for them to rock this hard – and with such skill – fresh out of the box. There are countless bands that have struggled for years to rock with this much energy and ferocity. The opener, "Love Is Happiness", takes off at a full sprint, as the wiry, double guitar attack underscores Cardamone's frantic yelping. The song just oozes with energy and frustration. If you listen close you can even hear some classic 80's metal riffs creep into the mix.
"You Make Me Nervous" calms down enough to incorporate Amphetamine Reptile-style noise rock and a few dynamic shifts, but "L.O.S.T." revs back up to a sonic blast. The riffs chug along predictably but explode at all the right moments with Cardamone's shriek always in tow. The band experiments with meter on "In Lieu", which allows Cardamone to prove that he can hit notes outside of a shrill scream. His singing is confident and charismatic- probably the byproduct of growing up on tons of cheesy metal, but he makes it work. "The Rape Of The Holy Mother" has to be mentioned as it demonstrates pretty clearly (through hardcore noise) what little of a fuck this band gives about anything held sacred.
The Icarus Line is gunning for all the pretty-boy punk bands papering the walls of the TRL crowd. Mono is a loud, raucous album, and The Icarus Line knows it. The attitude is half of the band's charm. But breaking out of the underground isn't going to happen with Mono- it's far too abrasive for that. The future looks bright, though, if these guys don't get themselves killed picking fights and overindulging themselves along the way. So, complaining about Mono's minor defects seems unnecessary at this point. Sure, it's rife with cliché and youthful excess, but the next album should be even better.