‘Raw Power‘ was released in 1973. Joe Cardamone, singer, songwriter and leader of The Icarus Line, wasn’t even born. His new album, ‘Slave Vows‘, released 40 years after the Stooges’ masterpiece, brings the idea of ‘Raw Power’ full circle.
It’s fair to say he has endured his fair share of nerve-shredding torment during his career. The Icarus Line seemed to be peaking early with the biting hardcore of Penance Soiree following their strong and equally sharp debut record Mono before the band imploded.
Follow up Black Lives at the Golden Coast was solid, but when they returned in 2011 with the tightly wound Wildlife, a tense, New Values-inspired beauty, they showcased a knack for a catchy hook and a rolling, leather-and-grease riff.
I saw them play songs from the newly released Wildlife to a completely disinterested crowd in Wolverhampton supporting post-punk doom-mongers Killing Joke. (Killing Joke’s first support band was an anonymous emo ensemble fronted by an emotional-looking kook with a pink Mohawk.)
The Icarus Line were ignored and heckled by the hostile fans inside the hall, who had no idea what was happening in front of them. To me it seemed as though The Icarus Line were trying to play Metallic K.O. from memory, completely unfazed by the negative vibe from the crowd, perhaps even thriving on it. They were playing as though their lives depended on it. Joe spat and convulsed and threw himself across the stage, eyeballing the crowd with an intensity I only wish Jaz Coleman was still capable of.
Joe Cardamone’s looks, songs, stage presence and sheer pig-headed will to make Dirty rock ‘n’ roll have all been compared to Iggy Pop (he doesn’t help these comparisons, in fact he practically forces them. But that’s no bad thing). Except he’s like the Iggy Pop you wouldn’t want selling car insurance. On stage, he’s the leopard-jacketed, silver-jeaned, platinum-rinsed, jagged-hipped, wired Iggy you wouldn’t even want in the same timezone as your car in case he tried to set it on fire to cure his boredom. In Wolverhampton, that night, was my first glimpse of the guy that would make my (and possibly your) album of the year for 2013. Because ‘Slave Vows‘ is the Real Deal. And Joe Cardamone sounds pissed off.
Opener ‘Dark Circles’ has been described a bunch of ways that don’t do it justice but the only word I can think of that comes close is ‘lunacy’. The track is an 11-minute slow-burner that rides a Spacemen 3 bass drone into a wall of shrieking, eyeball-popping FEEDBACK. What’s more, Joe plays all the guitar parts himself, an extraordinary fact considering Nick Cave had Rowland S. Howard, Iggy has James Williamson, Michael Gira has Norman Westberg, David Yow has Duane Dennison… but Joe is better alone. The guitar buzzes and bristles like something Jason Pierce and Co recorded back in Birmingham in ’86 except it pushes the filth-o-meter to hideous levels of holy noise. It ghosts itself away slow ‘n’ spooky, letting you try and grasp at any mental stability you have left.
‘Don’t Let Me Save Your Soul’ is a Grinderman-like ball of hot noise coming straight at you complete with call-and-response backing vocals straight from Cave & Co.’s playbook. It evolves from psych torch ballad into an in-the-red rocker, spiralling guitars slashing between the organ stabs. It’s a relentless Raw Power boogie held down by some righteous drumming madness.
The first tune I heard from the record was ‘Marathon Man’- a slow ‘n’ steady fuck-beat escalating into a wild feedback orgy. ‘Marathon Man’ captures the droning, plodding essence of Spacemen 3’s ‘Losing Touch With My Mind’, and sprays it with the kind of cranium-penetrating feedback that will kill your neighbours if you play it loud enough. You know the kind.
‘No Money Music’ is an absolute beauty – a black-hearted gem hidden between all the nuclear guitar meltdowns. It sounds like a prime cut from Suicide’s perfect first record. If you know anything about that record, you will know that it sounds like the scummiest, most basic filth ever committed to tape. ‘No Money Music’ is exactly that kind of NY scuzz you need to cool off in the shadow for a couple of minutes. Alan Vega and Martin Rev would approve.
‘Dead Body’ is another caustic freakout, ‘City Job’ has a Beefheart/Tom Waits/Doors pscho-oompah intro before getting seriously Swans heavy, and ‘Laying Down For The Man’ lights up a Kyuss bassline before the inevitable guitar fireworks – but it’s the final track, ‘Rat’s Ass’, that’s the one.
‘Rat’s Ass’ is a ripper that will literally violate your brain. Think Velvet Underground’s ‘Sister Ray’, Stooges’ ‘Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell’ – it’s a no-good No-Wave psychedelic Mind-Opener that will blow you away. I promise. If you have any affection at all for the noises a guitar makes when pushed to extremes, this is the song – and album – for you.
Buy it goddamnit! Support these unholy fuckers!
Because to paraphrase Iggy Pop, The Icarus Line are dirt, and they don’t care.
Scribed by: Ross Horton