The key here is to look past the band name, past the middle-school lyrics, past the comic books splayed across the album cover, past the shout-outs to “my iPod” and the “cast of The O.C.” in the liner notes. Just focus on the guitar line in “All You Need is Blood” or the bass line in “What’s Your Damage?” You’ve gotta learn to see a deeper side to these London boys. It’s not about the girls or the drugs – it’s about the music, stupid. Yes, the members of Test Icicles – who announced at the end of January that they would break up in March (they cited exhaustion and pressures from their recent European tour) – have dropped a big ol’ stinkin’ heap of talent with For Screening Purposes Only. And don’t let the irony fool you – they know it. Most of the tunes on their ravaged and ravishing debut are acrobatic wonders of cross-genre miscegenation – blindly tackling everything from dance-punk to speed-core to hip-hop, and all with a feral scream.
For Screening Purposes Only is rock without a filter. It displays at once youthful ferocity and veteran cultural-consumption habits. Imagine your kid brother going through his Slipknot phase in pre-school, burning through Nirvana and Sonic Youth by third grade, and rocking Deerhoof by sixth. Maybe it has something to do with the combination of their ages (two of them are nineteen) and their geographic resumes (between the three of them, Test Icicles have moved across sovereign borders five times) that’s produced such a fearlessly uninhibited sound. Whatever it is, it’s produced dynamos like “Circle.Square.Triangle.” – a cocaine sex jam built on slippery guitar and calls that “we could do with some more poison!” (Their EP of the same name featuring remixes from their debut is scheduled to be released later this spring.) Or there’s “Snowball,” a carnivalesque call ‘n’ response with a tirade of virtuoso drumming.
Anybody who’s everybody all the time has to suck some of the time, and a handful of these tracks could use a bit more attention in the editing room. In fact, “Catch It!” is nearly unlistenable, it’s three-and-half minutes encompassing little more than cookie-cutter hardcore, frighteningly lame hip-hop, and criminal misogyny. Elsewhere, the members of Test Icicles get into trouble with their stubborn reliance on shredding their own vocal chords. An underage scream marks nearly every tempo change or guitar riff throughout each of the record’s fifteen tracks.
But, really, there’s enough energy here to power the London suburbs and a few double-decker buses. For Screening Purposes Only may come off like a Gucci blonde at the wrong party – all glitz and no social graces. The three kids in Test Icicles may know all the drugs to do and the styles to wear, but they also know there’s more to success than just a stupid name.
Test Icicles Web site (with audio/video)Domino Records Web site