Five quick thoughts on Iceage's show Thursday night at Ace of Cups:
(1) It wasn't a good night for the sound mix. Not sure whether that was the band's fault or the bar's fault or some combination thereof, but Iceage definitely seemed a little flustered by it, so that probably colored everything else. Mics cutting in and out, guitars turned down to an unreasonably quiet volume, interminable delays between songs — it doesn't make for the visceral experience you want from a hardcore show.
(2) Speaking of which, when I was writing my preview, I couldn't decide whether to call Iceage a post-punk band or a hardcore band because they draw pretty heavily from both spheres. That's one of the reasons Iceage is so exciting, the lines blurring effortlessly, not as a convoluted hybrid genre but simply as an outflow of their dark, deranged psyches (and dark, deranged record collections, presumably). Their music isn't like anybody else's. That was clear Thursday, and it's always a privilege to see a band like that, one that can pull off "a punk anthem mid-melt" like opener "Ecstasy."
(3) That said, once Elias Bender Rønnenfelt put down his guitar and shifted into full frontman mode, Iceage's hardcore side definitely came to the fore. I felt like I was a basement show. There was pluses and minuses to this look for the band — Rønnenfelt's brooding presence and posture is a perfect fit for art-damaged stage stalking, but it doesn't quite make up for what they lose sonically by paring down from two guitars to one.
(4) Even when Rønnenfelt was playing guitar, though. the impact was slightly deflated; not sure if that's because of the sound problems or because Iceage's music is such a strange beast. Their songs aren't built with right angles or clearly delineated structures; they sometimes seem held together by a few strained threads. I'd say they're constantly threatening to go off the rails, except they don't seem to operate with rails to begin with. That kind of music is exhilarating at lawnmower volume but can be disorienting in a bad way when it feels far away like it did last night, like someone spinning your head from the next room over.
(5) The other element that renders Iceage unmistakable is Rønnenfelt's voice, a deadened moan that stabs like a dull blade. When he's bellowing incessantly and barely stopping for breath, the sound can become more of a curse than a blessing, but when he deploys his vocals judiciously and dynamically, as on the climactic bile purge "Morals," he's a deadly weapon.