There’s a track on this, the new album by The Icarus Line, entitled ‘Marathon Man’. For those of you unfamiliar with these Los Angeles-based ne’er-do-wells, it might be worth pointing out that this song has very little to do with long distance running, or indeed the 1976 movie of the same name, starring Dustin Hoffman, and rather more to do with frontman Joe Cardamone’s unwavering commitment to rock n’ roll not only as a style of music but as an entire modus vivendi.
I’ve been writing about the IL for years now, extolling their virtues as torch-bearers for the true spirit of punk rock in an age of soporific sounds and pimped-up poseurs. Truth is, Cardamone has been battling to get this band back firing on all cylinders ever since original guitarist Aaron North left in 2005. Nine years after the career-defining Penance Soiree – the last album on which North played – it looks as if he might just have managed it. Slave Vows offers eight tracks of unadulterated aural insalubriousness, in which, on the likes of the aforementioned ‘Marathon Man’, whispered vocals and tar-thick bass-lines give way to eardrum-busting squalls of guitar abuse and Cardamone’s trademark vituperative howl. ‘No Money Music’, meanwhile, condenses everything this band is about into two minutes of urgently throbbing paranoia. Other tracks of note are the savagely discordant ‘Dead Body’ and apostrophe-dodging album-closer ‘Rats Ass’. Most importantly, there’s a renewed swagger to each of these compositions, a sense that they’re ready to take on all comers once again. Whether this is down to having finally nailed the line-up – the arrival of new drummer Ben Hallett seems to have worked wonders – or Cardamone’s complete abandonment of compromise in his approach to song-writing remains to be seen. Whatever the reason, Slave Vows is seriously sexy stuff, and while it doesn’t quite match the scope of Penance Soiree, it certainly looks set to kickstart the next chapter in the history of this hugely underrated mob.
“All these pussies with their problems are a waste of time,” he intones at one point. “It’s a pleasure to amuse you, the pleasure is all mine.” Not quite, Joe. We’re enjoying this one just as much as you.