One of my favorite albums released this year was Iceage’s stylistic makeover ‘Plowing Into the Field of Love’. Admittedly part of the allure is due to pre-release expecations being completely shattered in a super rare sort of “different but for the better”.
I’m sure the changes caused a rift between fans who wanted more of the sloppy, fast energy from previous releases, and those like me who think the band took all the best parts of their old sound into a new even more meaning full direction. Musicians are constantly looking for ways to evolve and it’s perhaps the hardest thing to do is to build upon what you’ve created but never stagnate. Making it in the artistic world requires change, but it also requires demand. The challenge is to keep yourself in demand while staying relevant.
Iceage successfully (at least in my opinion) transistions their sound into a slower, murky, almost emo sound. Adding layers of horns and pianos and slowing their breakneck pace to a more pop oriented frenzy.
Now that’s it been over a month of letting the album settle in I figured I would try and hash out my take on it. I think a lot of my initial reaction was based on the ‘wow’ factor. The album’s first half still stands up so well over time that I still consider this as one of my favorites for the year, expecting a spot in the top 10 wouldn’t be a stretch.
The problem I’m finding now is that the album’s back half doesn’t continue the sound fusion of old and new and instead slumps along with tracks that sound more like the band’s experimenting with their new directi, unsure with how to progress.
Against the Moon and Forever are forelorn-y ballads that neither reach that moment where you feel in touch with the emotional angst they’re trying to harness nor whip up the urgency found on tracks from the first half like ‘Glassy Eyed, Dormant, and Veiled’. In fact those two tracks sound like rough drafts of Glassy eyed and Stay. Breaking up these two is Cimmerian Shade, a track whose purpose is to slowly draw you into a trance and then eventually wake you back up, attempts, but falls a bit flat. The album ends with the title track, which musically stands up with the stellar front half. Back-ending that group (maybe as a track 6) would probably put this as the best album of the year, possibly even one of the best in recent years.
The first half is so strong with crazy rockabilly (the lord’s favorite), punk piano (how many), and the previously mentioned emo opus Glassy Eyed that it’s hard for me to put a negative spin on it. I think the disappointment isn’t with the album per say but the fact that I want more. 6 or 7 GREAT tracks out of 12 should be considered over achievement by most band’s standards, however in this case they’re so good it’s disappointing to know that they had room for 5 or 6 more tracks that could match the rest of the highlights.
Unfortunately the best I can do for now is wear this album out and hope the punk creedos of fast and dirty end up producing a follow up that can match the quality of Plowing Into …