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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Punk is sure to rattle Gardner Saturday night

Wet Hair is a low-fi band from Iowa City. They are a noise rock band whose music sounds like an empty street springing to life under a full moon, the streetlights flashing and manhole covers trembling while neon lights froth underneath.
Their first album, In Vogue Spirit, features songs that range from simplistic beats to thunderclouds of noise. In “The Garden Room,” a keyboard tittles throughout the song, while the vocals are delivered in an echoing, droning voice. The song vibrates between moments of stillness, plateaus punctuated with humming strings, and then suddenly quickens as if it’s expanding as much in space as it is in pace.
Their most recent release, “Spill Into Atmosphere,” sees the band tighten focus on melodies and increase their energy. They retain their unique sound that could soundtrack an abandoned flea market coming to life in Technicolor, with all its noisy collaborations and high-pitched synths. “Color and Shape” opens up with a bravado of drums and resonant bass, until the synths kick in and ties the sounds together, which forms a call and response to vocalist Shawn Reed singing:
“Tonight, I seek motion like life, outside I feel everything right on time. I just mostly like wasting time, I see everything right in line.”
Iceage is a punk band from Copenhagen. Their sound is reminiscent of a surprisingly talented garage band from one’s hometown. The band’s singer, who you want to shyly congratulate after a show, has a raw frustration and a tangible energy of adolescence. This is a band whose sound encapsulates all the surprisingly complex and intense emotions of youth.
In a video for “You’re Blessed,” VHS cameras capture the bands shows in basements and small clubs, always surrounded by a swarm of jumping and sweating kids. The song begins with isolated guitar riffs and cymbal clanging, like the band preparing their own opening fanfare. Then the red carpet rolls out and Iceage delivers everything you want from a punk band: fast-paced vocals that echo the drawl of UK punk bands, guitar riffs that crash into your ears and pounding drums that sound like the heartbeat of the song itself, exhilarated and unstoppable.
The charming video shows kids so sweaty you’d think they just came out of the kiddie pool, pushing, hugging, hair tousling and kissing each other with joyous recklessness. At some points, the low lighting of the show just leaves you with the image of dark silhouettes crumpled into one big mess, which, visibility aside, still manages to sizzle with vitality.
Their more recent music explores a deeper and decidedly darker atmosphere. The name of their 2013 release, “You’re Nothing,” speaks for itself. The sound is frustrated, unapologetic and anthemic in its bleakness. In a black and white video of the band performing their song “Mortals” in NYC, an audience head nods to the song’s drumroll march. “If I could leave my body, I would. Crashing a wave, disappear.”
On ABC Radio, Iggy Pop has described the band as one of the few bands nowadays that actually sounds “dangerous.” Praise from Iggy, the ageless Prince of Punk, for a rock band of young 20-somethings is like The Backstreet Boys traveling forward in time and telling One Direction that they’re the best thing they’ve ever heard. Yet with this popularity, the band is getting noticed for some of their less than savory choices.
According to The Guardian, the band has been accused of endorsing various fascist images. There are screenshots of audience members “sieg heiling” (which may just be fist pumping) and the band sells Burzum patches, a band whose leader endorses White Nationalism and spent years in jail for murder. Punk bands have notoriously relied on such shock factors in the past, like late 70’s Chicago band Silver Abuse having a song called “All Jews Must Die” in response to Nazi marches in Skokie.
The band had this to say: “Of course it is unpleasant to be accused of something so harsh on such shallow grounds, and to be accused of being something we ourselves have only resentment towards.”
Grinnelians didn’t respond too warmly to the shock tactics of the last punk band we saw, The Orwells, when they started punching out ceiling tiles and freely using the word “faggot.” Whether this band lives up to Iggy Pop’s praise and is worth overlooking various hooligan antics, you’ll have to find out for yourself this Saturday, April 6, at Gardner.

-Geo Gomez ’15

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