The Icarus Line has been compared, not unfairly, to The Jesus Lizard, and after listening to their blistering CD, Mono [Crank], it is easy to see why. They come across as the smart hard rock band that Yow and company once were, but I doubt they would want to hear that. Who would wish to live in the shadow of another band?
Sure, initial listens might conjure these comparisons, but given its proper attention, Mono proves itself to be a powerful, intense rock album sure to please all the kids who love to mosh while pretending they are above the headbangers. The Icarus Line are that kind of band, heavy without being metal, yet not exactly the college rock band that the Replacements or the Pixies were. Their songs have more than enough chunky, treble driven guitar work and cymbal crashes to raise the rock and roll smile, and the vocals are filled with a low mono (as the title suggests) style juxtaposed with angst ridden screams. But as hard as they try they never manage to be more than just another rock band, not that there’s anything wrong with that. The Icarus Line are good, damn good at times, but Mono only comes close to being a full-out rock and roll effort.
"Love is Happiness", the album opener, kicks the whole thing off with a loud, fast bang paving the way for moodier pieces like "In Lieu" and silly sickness like "Feed a Cat to Your Cobra," a ditty that features the most fitting of The Icarus Line’s lyrics: "Dwell in the heart of negativity but not so deep that you drown." That says it all to me- The Icarus Line likes to dip their toes in the river of negativity and angst but they never dive in, and in the end I’m not convinced that they mean it. Perhaps if they crossed the line into true anger, rage, and darkness, then Mono would be more than another of these good but not awe-inspiring recordings.
All things considered, one could do worse things than buying this CD. If anything Mono is a clear indication of the potential that The Icarus Line possesses. I think we should keep our collective eye on these guys to see if they manage to evolve into the breathtaking rock band they are so close to being.
Oh, and they get a lot of points for putting Bukowski’s poem, "Rape of the Holy Mother" to music. They sure know good writing when they see it.