For a late teen going on twenty years old in Liverpool in the eighties it was a confusing time. I was too young to really have taken advantage of the Teardrop Explodes, Echo and the Bunnymen, Mighty Wah years. There were I am sure a number of great bands out there that would entice and entertain but I had a hankering for guitar theatrics, fringed jackets, the twang of the Byrds and the out and out violent assault of Neil Young on full Blackie mode with a cool pair of boots on the fold back speakers.
All of this could be had with Ian McNabb and his Icicle Works. They obviously had a true appreciation of the rock god posturing of Zeppelin, the angst of Lou Reed, the theatricality of Bowie and Bolan with an occasional dash of Neil Young’s self righteous politicizing. They festooned their 12 inch singles with appropriate cover versions making all the right sounds from The Seeds to Zeppelin vi the BeeGees early psychedelia sometimes in the same medley, they were a band of fans it seems and they wanted to rock out.
They could also write a sweet melody and danceable music which helped with the young ladies at the student union and Mr McNabb had that innocent McCartney lookalike face that would get them to the gig even if they had never heard of the band. All in all the total package, sightly psychedelic, jangly pop songs with a drummer who appeared at times to be possessed.
They were also it seems destined at the time to be incredibly unhip. Too good for that punky feel, too smart for pop and too rock for some. Not gloomy enough for those serious boys with their floppy hair and too serious for those Madonnalike girls in their leg warmers and bangles. A conundrum but a fun one, those knowing grins seemed to say they were in on joke that could only be understood if you knew Moby Grape and the 13th Floor Elevators and could sing along to the entire ditch trilogy. Approachable scallywags, often as drunk as the audience and friendly if you didn’t fawn, they always seemed to be having a good time until it was over.
From 1984, when I hit eighteen until 1990 they were often the covert soundtrack of my summers, they kept me company through the strange experience higher education was and sane in my Yorkshire years. Covert because my heavy metal friends would think them weak because they had no spandex and flying V. What they didn’t understand was that while they rocked out in their testosterone haze the Icicle Works audience was very much co-ed.
They were the last band I saw in Brighton at the Zap Club, although by that time only McNabb was left and they should have been a solo project. I still vaguely remember falling out of the club onto the pebble beach and listening to the waves break, knowing I had been to a rock gig by the smile on my face and the ringing in my ears.
Anyway all this was brought on by finding a UK version of Blind to go alongside my US version, it was just not right listening to the running order on the US version after all those years of the UK one.
Anyway here they are from the dim and distant past of 1986 on the Tube politicizing and rocking out, there may be fringed jackets leather pants and boots on view as well.