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Icarus Line - Wildlife

  by Jeff Thiessen

published: 12 / 9 / 2011

Icarus Line - Wildlife
Label: Cobrahead Records
Format: CD


Unfocused-sounding fourth album from Californian experimentalist outfit, the Icarus Line

I’ve heard a lot of stories about Icarus Line. They can sometimes be ultra cool, like the time Aaron North unplugged his Hagstrom at a Hard Rock Cafe show, only to break into an enclosed glass case with a Stevie Ray Vaughn guitar, and attempt to plug it in before security kaiboshed that idea. And other times they can be moronic, like the time lead singer Joe Caradone supposedly tried to fight an entire screamo band and their roadies in a coke fuelled haze. But whether they are tales of hedonistic rock legend or prime examples of traditional rock n’ roll ideology seeming pretty outdated in actual practice is beside the point....what is the point, is we still talk about all those incidents, and that’s something of importance, as IL seems to be in danger of being one of those bands that has more casual followers of their antics than actual fans, and that gets a bit problematic. Just ask the Jesus Lizard. I’m not in the first group, I’m definitely an IL fan, and have been ever since I heard their brilliant 'Love is Happiness' single found on a Buddyhead Sampler sent to me years ago by one site or another. I went on to purchase 'Penance Soiree', which to me is our generation’s 'Funhouse', and loved the direction frontman Joe Cardamone took the group with 'Black Lives at the Golden Coast'. They certainly took a big hit with the loss of phenomenal guitarist Aaron North, but Cardamone did the right thing by realizing this, and not trying to duplicate the chaos North brought to 'Penance', instead opting for a more slow-burn, very focused effort that certainly isn’t an equal to the epically savage 'Penance', but admirable in a lot of unique facets. Still though, I wasn’t entirely convinced they could keep it up. In my opinion, losing North was more than losing the core sound of the group, he was the soul. With that said, I was open-minded to their new effort 'Wildlife', even if I wasn’t wildly optimistic about it. Turns out my reservations were more than a little spot-on, and 'Wildlife' doesn’t begin to touch the greatness achieved on any of IL’s previous work. Basically, 'Wildlife' continues the musical direction of 'Black Lives', albeit in a more scattershot, haphazard way. We still have moved away from the brutal sound of their early work, but now we’re into some weird ‘Joe Caradone performance art’ show that places the music a very distant second to whatever his concept of real rock n’ roll ought to be. The problem is he can cop a rebel without a cause attitude all he wants. At some point people like me are going to sit alone, sober, and listen to the music he puts forth, and not all the swagger in the world is going to make me forget the songs are complete crap that fail to generate even a shred of momentum throughout the entirety of 'Wildlife'. This album sounds like b-sides and unfinished tracks. No bullshit, a lot of this album is directionless flailing to the point that I was wondering if 'Wildlife' was released by Caradone to combat leaks or something. I kept hoping the real music lurked somewhere a couple weeks away, but eventually common sense kicked in, and I realize this sorry excuse of a tracklist was actually the completed album. When it comes to sonic ambitions, I’m one of the more open-minded critics you’ll meet...but the ambition has to be at least somewhere close to actual talent and ability, and that’s the problem with 'Wildlife'. Not only does the music fail to generate anything close to the sort of guttural reaction Caradone seems to be going for, but I’m not even convinced it’s misguided ambition. The real concern I have with an effort like this is that there is no ambition at all. This might sound harsh, and maybe not fair considering Icarus Line’s earlier efforts, but this comes across as a record made by a man with no musical ability whatsoever. That’s how bad the song-writing is at its core here. Don’t believe me, listen for yourself. ‘We Sick’ was released to okay to slightly above average reviews as the first single, and I’m not sure how it received anything other than total apathy by any of those other journalists who got first dibs on its release. Apparently these geeks think music played with a sneer and a perpetual snarl automatically translates into great rock music or something, but that’s letting IL off the hook way too easily, and it makes those who praise it seem like gushing fan boys living vicariously through a played out bad-boy ideology. I’m not buying it, and nor should anyone with even a smidgen of taste in their record collection. I just looked at the track listing to try and find specific examples of this incredible aimlessness but with the exception of the title track, which came off as a modernized ripoff of Iggy’s 'The Passenger', there were no distinct moments on Wildlife noticeably worse or better than the rest. It all blurred together into one giant clusterfuck that seems like it’s desperately trying to reach nobody except the colossal, revolting ego of Caradone himself. Until he accepts the fact we really don’t care about any of that age-old rock star credo that equated living on the edge with relevant rock n roll, he’ll insist on leaving us with a whole lot of aimless thrashing in the name of channelling some real adolescent impulses masquerading as edgy music. And people will praise this hunk of shit. I’m already reading soundbites from a variety of jacked-up rock critics who extol the virtues of ‘primal sleaze’ and other such nonsensical hyberbole that could only be relayed with a straight face by someone who has never moved out of their mom’s basement. There’s also the chance they genuinely are moved by slimy garbage like this because it does stand in stark contrast to a lot of the neutered stuff that is getting released these days. But a simple brutish contrast to the domesticated terrain of contemporary music must not be automatically praised as a welcome shift into more organic, nervy territory more akin to a raw representation of the human condition. Instead, what we must realize, is punk life can be just as stupid, pointless, and banal as the corporate, manufactured, pop-song assembly line mill so many of us are quick to blast in search of ‘something real'. This very well might be Caradone’s reality, but it’s just as relevant to me as Jack Johnson’s. Just goes to prove futility can extend into all directions, all equal distance from the centre of eternal mediocrity.

Track Listing:-
1 King Baby
2 We Sick
3 Soul Slave
4 It's Alright
5 Venomous
6 No Lord
7 Bad Bloods
8 Sin Man Sick Blues
9 We Want More
10 All The Little Things
11 Tina Turner
12 Like A Scab
13 Wildlife

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