The Danish art-punk formation Iceage came back in 2018 with a more aggressive, proto-punk rooted record: Beyondless manages at the same time to be more polished and brighter than the previous works. Over time, the group started to research more elegant and punchy production choices and arrangements, incorporating post-punk, new-wave, noise, dream-pop, no-wave, shoegaze, and psych music in their sound. Thus complicating the basic hardcore punk experience with extra sonic layers and captivating violent lyrics a-là Arthur Rimbaud; lyrically, the band’s singer and frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt shows a great debt owed to Nick Cave and his style of poetry, but also an affection towards Anglo-American literature in general, including Beat Generation poets such as Gregory Corso and Allen Ginsberg.
A relentless setlist
The opener Hurrah is a straightforward punk song with an anthemic chorus that sets the mood of the project: “’Cause we can’t stop killing/ And we’ll never stop killing/ And we shouldn’t stop killing/Hurrah”. Pain Killer features Sky Ferreira, and at this point, the record starts to writhe and wriggle, as the track presents a catchy pop melody and structure but wrapped in a devilish noise arrangement with occasional outburst of drum fills in the background. The setlist is relentless, as after it presents Under the sun and Plead the fifth, the cathartic noisy side of the album so that the listener is constantly on edge.
The psychedelic Catch It, bearing heavy influences from The Velvet Underground, and Paisley Underground bands like Gun Club, with its disorienting overly processed guitar riff and violin-focused solo sums up perfectly the musical style Iceage tried to (re)invent in this opus.
Beyond punk’s limits
Beyondless is a word that doesn’t exist in the dictionaries. Samuel Beckett created it for his 1983 prose Worstward Ho, and it could roughly translate to: “limitless, without a border”. The album represents this attempt to explore and pass beyond the limits and the tropes of the punk genre, exploring its weaknesses, stressing its virtues, deconstructing it terminally into atoms “waiting for the day the music dies”, as Rønnenfelt screams in the Stooges-fueled The Day the Music Dies.
At the same time, the project reflects on the violence and futility inherited by our century, as we hear in Thieves Like Us: “Help I think I blindfolded the chauffeur/The coordinates are off track/Makes one want to file a restraining order/On humanity or myself”.
You can listen to Beyondless on Spotify.