Music is a wonderful thing. It has the power to bring people together in elation and divide opinion in furious argument in equal measures. Icky Blossoms’ debut full length self titled record which is released through Saddle Creek records in July has certainly managed the latter in the NEN Camp.
Such has the schizophrenic reaction been to the record, we’ve taken a slightly different approach with our coverage. We’re going to present two very different interpretations of the album and hand things over to you, the beloved NEN audience to decide where the consensus lies.
First up we have Euan Mackay’s thoughts which are then countered by those of NEN review editor Aimee Davis.
Without any further ado…
Unlike many records I come to these days, my first spin of Icky Blossoms’ debut effort was pretty much my first encounter with the band. My prior knowledge extending to their signing to US indie heavyweight Saddle Creek (formed by Mike Mogis and responsible for bringing us Rilo Kiley, Tilly and The Wall and Bright Eyes to name but a few). Then I had also heard a whisper that TV on The Radio’s Dave Sitek had produced the album. All in all it’s fair to say, there’s two solid reasons to give it a whirl.
As the record played out and the synth-heavy electronica sound washed over me like a soporific dose of audio-valium, my interest wavered quite quickly. Icky Blossoms offered little that was in anyway ground-breaking or terribly interesting to my uncultured ear. In the spirit of as fair a review as possible though, I persisted. Maybe it’s a grower, I thought. Maybe this would be a new Digital Ash in A Digital Urn, I hoped…
Yeah, it’s not.
As the record progresses, things take a turn for the familiar. Derek Pressnall (he of Tilly and The Wall) exerts his influence on the sound. Whilst this should very much be a good thing, unfortunately, it’s directed at a pretty vacant looping electroclash sound that featured on Tilly’s more recent output rather than the all out stomp along pop that they did so well, see the plodding ‘Babes’ as a prime example. Even the standout track on here, ‘Burn Rubber’, seems overly derivative, sounding like an outcast from Primal Scream’s XTRMNTR phase.
Actually, to suggest that ‘Burn Rubber’ is the standout track on the album would be just, plain wrong. The clear standout is ‘Sex To The Devil’. Sadly though, it stands out for all the wrong reasons. This is, quite simply, five minutes of my life I won’t get back. The lyrics are nonsensical. The beat is over repetitive and grating and the delivery of the vocals just seems too lifeless and listless to genuinely be taken seriously. Oh, and it’s called ‘Sex To The Devil’.
Whilst it would be unfair not to note the production value and the undoubted musicianship on show here, there’s no questioning a lot of time and effort went into crafting this. The problem, for me at least, is that I was left feeling a little cold by it all. I felt a little too sober, a little too old and a little too out of touch by it all. Sadly, this doesn’t resonate with me the way that Bright Eyes managed to with their electro efforts on the same label. The Icky Blossoms album was my first and hopefully last, encounter with the band.
And now to show that Euan is talking a load of codswallop…
I appreciate that Icky Blossoms might not be everyone’s cup of tea, and I certainly don’t like tea, but this is like a fruit tea; suitable for everyone’s tastes, sweet and non-offensive.
You say “plodding” for ‘Babes’ I say different and interesting. Admittedly the lyrics may be repetitive but the vocals are intense and rather sexy and actually for me, one of my favourite tracks off the album. It shows versatility, another dimension, and verification that this band are something special. It might be “synth-heavy” but if you threw in an electric guitar or drum solos then you’ll end up with all the meaning and magic being lost.
Brooding and intense ‘Sex To The Devil’ maybe not one for the kids to bop along to but imagine it playing ridiculously loud in a dark room in a club…maybe that is when you will fully appreciate the intensity. Maybe then you’ll understand the desired effect and what the band are trying to achieve here. It’s the good side of pretentious, an engaging beat and go beneath the surface and it has depth which is essentially avant-garde.
Throughout it is engaging and varied and evident that Icky Blossoms have taken time with this debut. It shows that they are fully aware that they need to produce a record that makes people pay attention and I believe they have done just that. Whether you like it or not it is undeniable that each track is unique and at least we both agree on the production here; that they have worked hard in crafting art that stands out.
Vocals are not “lifeless and listless” but in fact drenched in seduction and intrigue. This is beautifully shown in closing track ‘Perfect Vision’. At over 6 minutes long it builds up and up to a point of splendour, where it leaves you in a state of euphoria thinking “my word that was a debut and a half”.
So, there you have it, two sides of the same story. What are your thoughts on the record that has divided NEN? Who are you taking sides with here? Have a listen to the album via Soundcloud below and let us know what you think.