One of the more interestingly named bands to emerge on to the music scene this year, London trio Test Icicles have made a name for themselves for being awfully loud, largely unclassifiable and for having a penchant for pink guitars.
Dev Haynes, Sam Mehran and Rory Aggwelt all met in art school, it is said, before they flunked out to form Test Icicles. With the help of a keyboard and a drum machine, they began gigging, attracting much label interest in doing so. After a fierce bidding war, they eventually signed to Domino, who are currently riding high with the likes of Franz Ferdinand and Arctic Monkeys shifting units by the bucket load.
For Screening Purposes Only is their debut album, and is 52 minutes of genre hopping carnage. Indie, metal and hip hop are thrown into a blender to create a sound that is certainly unique within the current crop of guitar bands, and one that is at times quite compelling. The volume remains at a constantly ear piercing level, with little respite – the interlude after the first two tracks is the only time the listener has to relax in what is otherwise a unequivocal barrage on the senses.
Things kick off with Your Biggest Mistake, a sustained four-minute assault of heavy riffs and malicious, seemingly uncontrolled vocals. It’s the heaviest thing on the record, and sounds not unlike Slipknot if they decided to cover Death From Above 1979. While not being the most accessible number, its brutality is nevertheless something to behold.
Singles Boa vs. Python and Circle Square Triangle follow soon after, two strong numbers that have quite understandably been responsible for the current hype surrounding this bunch. The former is a roller coaster of stop start riffs and more depraved vocals that combust spectacularly after three minutes, whilst the latter is a dance friendly number with a huge chorus.
The tempo shifting Maintain The Focus is another highlight, with its surprisingly melodic, radio friendly hook grabbing you the scruff of the neck and refusing to let go. All You Need Is Blood would also stand up effortlessly as a single – built over a sturdy beat and an electrifying guitar riff in the background, it’s the sound of My Chemical Romance or lostprophets having an epileptic fit. It’s arguably the most entertaining moment on the record.
Unfortunately, it must be said that the results of this musical experiment aren’t always as successful as they might have hoped. For the best part, they get it right. There are a number of occasions, however, where the songs degenerate into a sea of mindless, self-indulgent noise.
Pull The Lever suffers from an overused, insanely annoying chorus that disrupts the momentum of the track, whilst Catch It! is another offender – sounding like a hip hop artist rapping over some fuzzy, overdriven guitars and repeating the line “Bitches don’t own me,” it’s what we could term as GBH to the ears. Snowball is equally atonal – sounding like a deranged psychiatric patient speaking to you in your worst nightmare, it’s devoid of anything resembling a chorus or a melody.
But although this is not a perfect record, it remains a very good album. It’s hugely varied and highly exciting, and points to a bright future. And while it may not be as immediate as one might hope, if you stick it out, the rewards are plentiful. We can put the blips down to experimentation gone wrong, or alternatively to a bout of crazed schizophrenia – which is probably what they’d prefer.