Album Review: Iceage—“Plowing Into The Field Of Love”

By James Li

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, home to some of the angriest and most frustrated music in the world. The Copenhagen punk scene, the so-called “New Way of Danish Fuck You,” includes bands like Vår, Lower, and Sexdrome. But Iceage are the most famous and controversial band from this movement outside of Denmark. Their first two albums, New Brigade and You’re Nothing, dialed down the harsh black metal tones that characterized the NWODFY movement for a dour post-punk sound. Their first two albums, New Brigade and You’re Nothing, invited praise and comparisons to Joy Division. And, just like Joy Division, Iceage were also dogged by allegations of fascist sympathies for endorsing neo-Nazi bands and selling knives at their shows.

I think the fascist accusations levelled at Iceage are unsubstantiated, and with Plowing into the Field of Love, Iceage’s third album, the comparisons to Joy Division are slipping away. Instead, we’re treated to an album that takes country, blues, and rockabilly into its fold. Brooklyn band The Men made a similar turn toward roots music, but while The Men toned things down, Iceage are as aggressive as ever.

The album art for "Plowing into the Field of Love"

The album art for Plowing into the Field of Love

Whereas the musicianship on Iceage’s previous albums could charitably be described as sloppy, the band has made serious strides on Plowing into the Field of Love. They break out some new instruments on the album, such as the slide guitar on “On My Fingers,” the piano on “How Many,” or the trumpets on “Forever.” The band barely played on time on New Brigade, but they’ve developed a keen sense of rhythm, and as a result, every track rollicks and swings.

Elias Bender Rønnenfelt’s vocals, though, are as ragged and imperfect as ever. His whiskey-soaked delivery might remind you of punk blues legends like Nick Cave, Shane McGowan, or Jeffrey Lee Pierce, but Rønnenfelt’s thick Danish accent gives his singing even more character. He’s better at slurring and moaning than he is at actually singing, but that’s the intended effect. But if Rønnenfelt isn’t a technically great singer, then he’s at least a convincing one. He’s a desperate romantic on “Simony,” bloodied and anguished on “Cimmerian Shade,” and a cocky narcissist who indulges in “100 euro wine” and women who wear “five-inch white high heels” on “The Lord’s Favourite.”

Some fans of Iceage’s more raw and brutish past records might be disappointed at Iceage’s foray into the bluesier side of punk, but I’d argue that they already perfected that sound on You’re Nothing and the rest of the NWODFY bands aren’t going anywhere (if anything, they’re even more raw and brutish). Iceage succeeded in keeping their sound fresh and made a very gratifying rock album. It’s the perfect music for starting a bar fight. Or at the very least, it will make you want to tuck your shirt into your pants like Elias does and feel badass about it. (Matador)

Listen: “The Lord’s Favorite

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