Test Icicles

For Screening Purposes Only

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With most of the hot U.K. bands of the mid-2000s borrowing from new wave, post-punk, and '90s Britpop, Test Icicles deserve some credit for having a slightly different set of influences, even if the band isn't radically inventive in its own right, either. On its debut album, For Screening Purposes Only, the trio crafts a chaotic sound that is heavily inspired by American and Canadian noise rock bands like the Mae Shi, the Blood Brothers, and Death from Above 1979, as well as heavy metal (which shouldn't come as a surprise, considering their Beavis and Butthead-ready name and song titles like "Party on Dudes"). Test Icicles can shriek and shred with the best of them, particularly on the album's opening track, "Your Biggest Mistake." However, by the second song, "Pull the Lever," the band can't resist throwing a poppy hook and vocal harmonies into the mathy, nimble noise, and by "Boa vs Python" and "Circle.Square.Triangle.," they sound like Bloc Party's brooding dance-punk with more piss and vinegar and less angst (in some of their press photos, Test Icicles even look like a bizarro version of that band). Most of For Screening Purposes Only falls somewhere between manicured noise rock and cleaned-up death-disco, but the band finds time to explore other sounds too: "Catch It!" flirts with screamo without fully committing to it, U.S. bonus track "What's Michelle Like?" is heavy and ugly, with thudding drum machines anchoring the chaos, and "Dancing on Pegs"' squeaky vocals and quick tempo shifts border on camp. Test Icicles try to do so much with their music that it could blow up in their faces at any moment; that they manage to pull off most of For Screening Purposes Only without embarrassing themselves (or annoying their audience) too much is a pleasant surprise -- if you can call anything associated with music this willful and spazzy pleasant. Caught somewhere between challenging and accessible, For Screening Purposes is worth checking out for those who like their music prickly but with an undercurrent of pop to it, too.

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