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Iceage's apathy exhibition 

Danish upstarts endure political ennui and Joy Division comparisons

Danish proto-punk quartet Iceage formed when its members were all still in high school. But they knew they had something special from the very beginning, swears drummer Dan Kjær Nielsen, now a wise old 21. "I thought we were really good at writing songs and that we could become something great," he says of what would soon morph into a Copenhagen music movement called The New Way of Danish Fuck You. "And not to sound too full of myself, but I think that we are great. I think we're the best band around, and not just in Denmark — pretty much everywhere. I just think that we're doing something that I haven't seen done."

Nielsen has a point. Anchored by a buzzsawing Tasmanian devil of a frontman named Elias Bender RØnnenfelt, Iceage brings a certain Joy Division-stark passion to its bludgeoning 2011 debut New Brigade and the new, more expansive and experimental followup You're Nothing. But that's about the only frame of reference that's applicable. And yes, sighs Nielsen distractedly, he used to like Joy Division. "When I was younger — I don't enjoy them that much anymore. But I don't think we look to anyone for inspiration. Well, of course we DO. But I mean we just don't try to sound like other bands."

And it's not a punk revival, the Copenhagen scene, although there are some parallels. The Sex Pistols had anger as a motivator and the Malcolm McLaren/Vivienne Westwood boutique SEX as a hipster hangout. Iceage and its peers were whelped from political apathy and ennui, and they have several spinoff combos to reflect varying degrees of angst. (Nielsen and Iceage bassist Jakob Tvilling Pless just formed an even heavier, more aggressive group dubbed Sejr, which means 'Victory' in Danish).

Disaffected Danes also have a local haunt — the Posh Isolation record label and shop, where kids can check out the latest music, books and magazines. "They just carry stuff that's probably hard to find elsewhere and that they feel is related to what they're doing," Nielsen explains. "I'm not part of that label, but they're my friends and I think what they're doing is great."

As for politics, his generation couldn't care less, says Nielsen, who's noticed nothing remarkable about Denmark's right-to-left-shifting government. "I don't think there's been any change at all apart from the faces you see on TV. It's pretty much the same, and I don't think it has any effect on us — it's just more guys in suits saying more boring stuff."

What are Iceage's brutal salvos about then? The chugging "Coalition," says Nielsen, is about social media and "people trying to get in touch with you in an excessive way." The brontosaurus-plodding "Morals," he says, "isn't about traditional morals — it's about sticking to what you believe in." And You're Nothing's roiling title track? "That song's about how everything can be a bit meaningless sometimes."

So does the band have an agenda, a game plan? Just one, says Nielsen, one of three Iceage members who still live at home with his parents. "My parents think it's great, you know, and they miss me when I'm away. But now I'm 21 years old, and I'd really like to have a place of my own where I can do what I want."

scene@csindy.com

  • Danish upstarts endure political ennui and Joy Division comparisons

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