Copenhagen’s young post-punk quartet Iceage released their debut album New Brigade in 2011. Shared feverishly online, the album created quite a buzz, paving the way for upstart contemporaries like Stockholm’s Holograms and Toronto’s Metz to rise out of 2012. After touring New Brigade for almost two years, Iceage seem to have come to a number of mature realisations in creating their second album; the last song on New Brigade was titled You’re Blessed, the last song on 2013’s sophomore release is the album’s title track, You’re Nothing.
It’s difficult to grasp what has caused the band to mature musically and stylistically, but perhaps the movement from You’re Blessed to You’re Nothing is a way to draw a line in the sand after a surprisingly successful release, reminiscent of how Radiohead’s Kid A downplayed the legacy of its predecessor OK Computer. Iceage’s musical transformation hasn’t been quite as dramatic though. They’ve reined in their aggression somewhat, and now choose to express their angst through songs which are noticeably more melodic and dynamic than those heard on their debut.
Iceage still manage to maintain a certain Nordic mystique, which is strange because they sound quasi-English – you get hits of The Cure and The Clash at times, as well as large segments of a slightly mutated Joy Division. Nonetheless, they retain the unrestrained style they explored on their debut, but now filter it through some punk and goth sensibilities.
Album opener Ecstasy rolls around in crunchy shoegaze guitar tones, but is driven by the hauntingly nonchalant vocals of Elias Bender Rønnenfelt, who utters perhaps the most memorable line on the album in staggered two-word phrases: “What shade / Of joy / Will hit / Me first / I hope / It lasts / A burst / In bliss.” This notion – that there is futility in trying to capture life’s joyous moments – is a recurring thought throughout You’re Nothing, but it doesn’t stop the band from creating their own moments of uplifting melody and movement.
In Haze is Iceage at their most melodic and energetic, with their guitars carrying intricate hooks and Dan Kjær Nielsen’s drumming providing instant momentum. The song is juxtaposed beautifully against the following, Morals, which is markedly colder, darker and more gothic. Alongside In Haze, the song helps to frame and contrast two sides of Iceage we see scattered throughout the album: the confident and energetic side, and the dark and brooding side.
Although You’re Nothing is slightly more accessible than its predecessor, Iceage aren’t setting out to create universally relevant music. Their timing is off at times, and the recording quality isn’t the best, but this reinforces their already distinguished semi-DIY aesthetic, and adds to their persistent charm. You’re Nothing showcases a band continuing to mature – not a band that makes it easy for listeners to get lost in its own cruel energies, but one that will reward you if you do.