Danish punk band Iceage’s new album Plowing Into the Field of Love moves the band into more structured sonic terrain and showcases increasingly complex arrangements while holding onto a sense of chaos and raw energy. Iceage plays Fun Fun Fun Fest this weekend and they’re a band you should not miss. There will be purists who insist on viewing as a step backward anything other than the band’s lean and frenetic punk rock that first excited the music world. However, Iceage’s rough edges and slurred growls remain, and I’ve never been one to blame a band for evolving.
Plowing begins with the sprawling and plodding “On My Fingers,” a song that incorporates piano prominently, as the band did on You’re Nothing. However, the song differs from predecessors in its restrained pacing and willingness to move through slower musical sections. In these moments, Iceage proves more methodical and thoughtful than ever but remains just as challenging. Interestingly, the group seems to be walking the same path as American punk-rockers The Men, who moved from stark punk into country rock riffs. These roots elements are evident in flashes across the album, but nowhere so defined as on standout track “The Lord’s Favorite.” The song is rollicking and full of distorted finger-picking and bouncing bass lines.
Following these slow/mediated and playfully rocking moods, “How Many” bursts forward with propulsive drums and guitars interspersed with a recurring minimal piano motif as frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt inquires, “How many?” in his recognizable snarl. Iceage has always managed to capture ennui and angst in these sorts of vague yet emotive rhetorical lyrics. The line recalls a similar lyric, “Where’s your morals?” from You’re Nothing. At three minutes and twenty-one seconds, “How Many” is the album’s second shortest song. It would’ve been the second longest on You’re Nothing. In fact, the first three songs on Plowing are about as long as half of You’re Nothing. What’s important about this is how effectively Iceage uses that extra space to explore ideas and create depth.
“Glassy Eyed, Dormant and Veiled” employs brass, “Stay” uses slide guitar, and “Forever” incorporates excellent strings with marchy snare for one of the album’s best cuts. “I lose myself forever,” chants Rønnenfelt repeatedly before the song breaks and builds back into a frenzy. There are, of course, the simply straightforward and blistering punk tracks like “Let it Vanish” and “Cimmerian Shade.” The album ends with “Plowing Into the Field of Love,” during which the band puts it all together: rootsy guitar noodles, punky growls, huge drums, deep grooves, and triumphant brass. It might be their most mature and fully-realized song to date. People have been calling these kids geniuses since their first album. On Plowing Into the Field of Love, they’re more genius than ever.