Iceage

Plowing Into The Field Of Love

Copenhagen's Iceage gained a certain reputation and divided reaction with the reckless, snotty abandon they approached their first two albums with, 2011's New Brigade and last year's You're Nothing. In truth, though, it sounded like they were merely slurring their way through abstract, noisy compositions that skirted newly discovered intersections between the U.K. post-punk and American hardcore scenes of the 1980s—promising, to be sure, and at times enjoyable, but also somewhat directionless and unfocused. Plowing Into The Field Of Love not only finds the band honing in more on actual songcraft, but provides a grandiose, Western-tinged tragic with the addition of piano, strings and horns guiding the album into the psychic ether.

It's a leap in melody and structure not unlike their oft-compared countrymen, Lower, made on their recent album, Seek Warmer Climes. But aside from the excellent “How Many,” the bands aren't actually mirroring each other all that much stylistically, and Iceage in fact hit a more consistent stride on the singles-loaded Plowing. Unlike their earlier ravings, these songs tend to have clear, thematic neuroses as well. “The Lord's Favorite” grapples with a twisted sort of messiah complex, while epic centerpiece “Forever” seems to ponder the idea of losing oneself completely (whether that be to the creative process or just general psychosis is anyone's guess). “Glassy Eyed, Dormant And Veiled” and “Stay” swing through back to back speaking of damaging abandonment issues, frontman Elias Ronnenfelt softly growling by the end of the latter.

Plowing coyly skips across styles and genre with ease, but retains cohesion throughout. “The Lord's Favorite” carries a free-wheeling, rockabilly shuffle in the spirit of the Smiths' “Rusholme Ruffians.” “Let It Vanish” leans on a standard military drum roll à la Against Me!'s “Pints Of Guinness Make You Strong.” A plucked violin and barking Ronnenfelt give “Abundant Living” a deranged Celtic flavor in the vein of the Pogues. “Forever” kicks off with a compelling, repetitive groove Lungfish might lock into, picking up into a numbed yet seething, anthemic climax. Latecomer “Simony” follows the balladic “Against The Moon” with a Manchester post-punk-style energy that's nonetheless restrained from parroting that era's tropes too closely,

Overall, Plowing is an artistic, unique and rather enjoyable step few probably expected Iceage to make, and quite easily the band's best album yet.

Matador http://www.matadorrecords.com

“Forever”