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Test Icicles - Boa Vs. Python EP

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Artist: Test Icicles

Album: Boa Vs. Python EP

Label: Domino

Review date: Oct. 28, 2005

Some would argue that LCD Soundsystem’s eponymous debut LP this year marked the apotheosis –and the scripted ending – of the “dance-punk” genre, but the thoughtful among us refuse to diminish that brilliant document with such a shoddy label. On the other hand, Test Icicles would be called a dance-punk band if anyone called anybody that anymore.

Most of the signs are there – choppy guitars, whiny vocals, hi-hat cliché – but so are crazed undistorted guitar licks, found-sound slowdowns, power-pop choruses, and layer upon layer of powerful and slickly produced screaming. Instead of eschewing a tired trend’s trappings, Test Icicles have revitalized dance-punk by piling on chunks of other styles until the songs groan under the weight and threaten to collapse.

The first track, “Boa Vs. Python,” is the EP’s weakest; its overly polished production and conventional structure undermine the layers of scream/vocal chaos that would allow the track to erupt into awesome noise frenzy. Increasingly hobbled by its too-slow pacing, the song ends up at about 65 percent Hot Hot Heat and 35 percent Blood Brothers.

But the next track, “All You Need is Blood,”is the highlight. Starting with a lovingly wrecked classic-rock riff a la Lightning Bolt, the song quickly dissolves into a relentlessly catchy, jumpy dance-groove, which gives way to the closest thing the song has to a chorus – a precisely-arranged series of variously-pitched screams. Soon, the whole thing falls apart into a backward-vocal slow jam, a la Odelay-era Beck, and ends just as quickly as it begins.

“LMNO Hoes” is a worthwhile joke, borrowing from sense-of-humor-era Beastie Boys (“She’s Crafty”), all the way down to its final cowbell hit. With final track “What’s in the Box,” Test Icicles once again unleash a thrilling pastiche. Here incoherent shout/whine vocals resolve into anthemic, Weezer-style big radio choruses, which are swiftly overtaken by sped-up math guitars.

It will be quite a shame if Test Icicles (whose original band name was, in fact, Balls) get sucked further into the radio-focused mindset of “Boa Vs. Python” on future releases. Though tracks like “All You Need is Blood” and “What’s in the Box” can’t equal Test Icicles’ spectacular live show (all flying hair, obscene jokes and mid-song instrument switches), they do prove that the band is more than hype and novelty.

By Anna Bond

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