Why do you have to be so confrontational? – Guy Garvey 2003
From 2002 to 2004 I fronted “Icons of Poundland”, we started as a solo electronic/noise demo, and evolved from a one-off gig as “Icons of Uncool” to be one of Manchester’s most awkwardly noisy bands at the turn of the century. The lineup included ex Loafer bandmates Kester Jones (guitar, vocals, organ) and Alex Timewell (bass) as well as Polythene/Snakes/Fall drummer Kate Themen.
A review of the album by Adam Farrer from “This is not TV” – 2003…
What I do is something of a disgrace. For me to presume to judge a persons best efforts, and frequently damn them, suggests a certain vile nature and insecurity. It is certainly to mark oneself out as an arrogant, self-important dampener of dreams. The fact that I do this for absolutely no financial gain (most of our PR freebies are given away as competition prizes) makes an ugly practice even more disfigured and pungent. However it is also part and parcel of my self appointed position as pompous raspberry blower to fawn, yawp excitedly and sprinkle sweet smelling waters upon those who’s work I consider exemplary. Whenever this happens I will holler my approval from every orifice in order to redress the balance of my caustic condemnations. Rarely do I ever have such an excuse to purge the sins of my critical cruelty than when a Julian Gaskell creation comes my way.For the uninitiated, and sadly they are many, Julian was the driving force behind one of Manchester’s most cruelly overlooked bands, Loafer. Loafer always seemed to me the missing link between Ian Dury and the Blockheads and a ferociously prolapsing larynx and perhaps as a result didn’t slide in too neatly beside the proliferation of pointless punks, limp wristed balladeers and interminable baggy bands that make up the majority of the city’s otherwise thriving unsigned scene. The strain of apathy took its toll and the band crumbled briefly, losing an incredible drummer in Ben Emissah, to re-emerge with ubiquitous Manchester stickstress Kate Themen in tow as Icons of Poundland. The sound of Loafer having an electric fire dropped into its bath was born. Now here, following Icon’s debut home studio-tastic double B-side single “Nothing But Love And Good Vibes/House Doubles”, comes their eponymous debut album with more fire in its angry little belly than I could have possibly hoped.
“Nothing But Love And Good Vibes”, fattened by a full band sound since its solo noisenik incarnation on their debut, jerks and spits like The Clash sodomising “Lust For Life”. “Stole My Smile” is the sound of bones being broken with a Soda Stream whilst “An Infestation You Can’t Clear” is Tom Waits tossing “Fiddler on the Roof” albums into a cement mixer, and that is just your first three tracks.
In the majority “Icons…” is an album designed to scream and unburden its spite for your listening pleasure but it is not without its more tender, palette cleansing moments. The emotionally wrenching likes of “Pissing All Over My Dreams” and “Safe and Warm” hit home with an emotional impact born of discordance and vulnerable cacophony, both barely uttered murmurs of eloquent discontent, whilst the sinister crumbling lounge howl of “Icon Of The Cool” slinks, gradually, under your skin and settles in.
This record is in no way an easy ride, on top of the challenging onslaught of the music itself the whole album is drenched in a production technique that fizzes and burbles with all the
lo-fi glory of a teenager compiling a C90 mix tape, though for £1 you were hardly going to get perfection. A nation still gripped by the wonder of seemingly production free New Yoik punk, however, shouldn’t have a great deal of trouble pulling the gems from this white noise, should the band get their well deserved chance at mainstream acceptance.
These songs don’t come across as having been written, they seem instead to have been ripped from some ferocious source and battered into ragged form, Julian especially coming on like a conduit for this source. At times the band seem to be controlling this sound rather than crafting it, the vocals torn, glancing against the melody, the guitars bullish and fiery, kicking and fighting. There is an energy and urgency on display here that you are rarely likely to stumble upon in a lifetime’s worth of music loving and if you are lucky enough to come across this band, this music, these songs then you will be a richer person for it. I certainly am, not least because it has brought me some small relief from my usual snide role of pious, opinionated twat!