If Danish punk band Iceage’s debut New Brigade gave us just that, then it looks like their third album Plowing into the Field of Love gives us another brigade. Indeed, if it weren’t for Elias Rønnenfelt’s distinct baritone vocals (think Jonathan Richman of The Modern Lovers or Ian Curtis of Joy Division), we probably wouldn’t recognize Plowing as another Iceage album. While Plowing stays true to Iceage’s 12-songs-an-album tendency, it’s nearly 50-minutes long, while the band’s first two albums weren’t half an hour. Iceage doesn’t dawdle with their extra time: they take us on a dynamic, never-boring journey with tempo, instrumentation, and even genre. Plowing will please anyone who liked the face-pounding albums You’re Nothing and New Brigade, and it will likely convince others to jump on the Iceage train who weren’t already on the off-the-rails ride.
Plowing is an obvious change of instrumentation – pianos, horns, and even mandolins inhabit this album – but this doesn’t mean Iceage has made a change of heart. Plowing still gives you that unapologetic punk attitude that gave everyone bruises in Iceage moshpits. The gleeful mandolin on “Abundant Living” dances beside Rønnenfelt’s literal hacks that he throws in at the beginning of songs (listen to “Cimmerian Shade” for an extensive Rønnenfelt hacking). “The Lord’s Favorite,” by far the catchiest Iceage song yet, starts off with a boom-chicka-boom Johnny Cash riff and then bouts an irresistibly sing-alongable chorus that blesses 100-year-old wine and five-inch white heels. And the most unique song on the album, “Against the Moon,” sounds like it’s led by a chamber ensemble while Rønnenfelt lingers on a fitting reference to a Peter Bruegel painting: “Whatever I do / I don’t repent / I’ll keep pissing against the moon.”
There are plenty of other dynamics on this album – too many to adequately talk about in one review, which is the sign of a great album. Other highlights are the suddenly-out-of-control tempo changes on “Stay,” Johan Wieth’s intricate guitar work on “Simony,” and the victorious-but-still-charging horns at the end of the title track as Rønnenfelt chants, “Bootlickers stand aside / I am plowing into the field of love / They will place me in a hearse.”
Iceage is clearly growing – the band sounds tighter than ever. Sure, these guys are maturing, but the oldest member in the band, Johan Wieth, turned 23 just last September. So these guys are still babies, albeit badass babies. Hopefully we won’t be placing anyone in a hearse any time soon, because we need more genre-pushing albums like Plowing on the scene.
8.0 / 10
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