By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Convincing Texans to buy an Icarus Line album may be tough after the band's infamous 2002 set at the Hard Rock Cafe, wherein guitarist Aaron North broke a display case for a Stevie Ray Vaughan guitar and attempted to plug it in.
For anyone still holding a grudge, relax: Jonny Lang will make a new album soon enough. Those who think turning still-functional instruments into corporate museum relics epitomizes the bottom-line commoditization of rock may actually like Icarus Line—even if their boasted misdeeds start to seem as much PR as they are genuine outbursts.
Since North left to join Nine Inch Nails, the group has continued to evolve from skuzzy, noisy hard rock into something more tuneful and dynamic. The Stooges-esque mayhem is still there, but new guy James Striff explores the more atmospheric and effects-laden territory North hinted at on 2004's Penance Soiree.
"Black Presents" opens the disc with Joe Cardamone's banshee wail over a badass stuttering bass line and explosive drumming. It's followed by "Fshn Fvr," a pleasantly hazy groove with a hypnotic reverberating drumbeat that sounds like a metal heartbeat. This sets the album's pattern of alternating black-leather snarls with eyeliner-soft chill-outs. Cathartic headbangers such as "Sick Bitch," with guitars that channel Appetite-era Slash, hardly build momentum as weaker, mood pieces threaten to overtake the album; "Victory Gardens" sounds like a U2 B-side until Striff hits the distortion pedal exactly when you know he will. But even with its soft missteps, Black Lives is an easy introduction to Icarus Line.
Maybe someday they'll tear shit up at Nokia Theatre or House of Blues—figuratively speaking, of course. I'm sure they'd behave themselves.