The new album from the Danish band Iceage finds them on a sonic journey that used to be fairly commonplace. Among the titans of college rock who ruled the left end of the dial through the nineteen-eighties, there are a slew of bands that started out as snarling punk rockers before evolving into comparatively refined practitioners of tuneful rock music that wouldn’t have been out of line plopped onto playlists next to the offerings of the wooly mammoths of AOR stations. Maybe that sort of transformation still takes place nowadays. The narrowing of genre specificity dictated by online algorithms makes me doubt that it does.
Seek Shelter is an argument that it’s productive — even exciting — for bands to grow and adapt. Spacemen 3 multi-threat music maker Sonic Boom was brought in to help produce the album, Iceage’s fifth full-length studio effort, and the band concertedly expands their sound accordingly. Where earlier material was defined by speed, fury, and capacity for clatter, the cuts on Seek Shelter have an enviable ease and sprawl. Opening track “Shelter Song” is like Built to Spill trying to be Oasis, and that provides a good idea of all that follows.
Impressively, none of it feels like a stretch. Instead, it’s easy to become convinced this is what Iceage has been build to all along, even if I doubt I ever would have predicted they’d someday remind me of Skylarking-era XTC, which is exactly what happens when I listen to “Drink Rain.” Other comparisons come to mind — the Hold Steady on “Gold City,” or the overstuffed, tightly controlld splendor of Spiritualized on “Love Kills Slowly” — but that’s shorthand rather than a suggestion of echoing other bands to the point of derivativeness. The album crackles with invention matched with assurance.
Iceage just comes across as a damn good rock band on Seek Shelter. They can deliver the juicy, glammy “Vendetta” and the sheets-of-guitar wonder that is “Dear Saint Cecilia.” This is precisely what a rock record is supposed to be: jammed full of hooks and sass and cacophonous musicianship. Sometimes artistic progression should be played loud.