Am I so blind I cannot see…

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 IMG_4686appreciation 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.

I ridicule myself for all the things those symbols stood for…

I waited a long time to get the energy up to listen to this. Some of it was the legend of how overwhelming and pretentious it was even though  I am not afraid of pretentious. oceanIt also may have been a badge of pride that I had never heard it all the way through in all my years of listening to Yes.

Sucking it up I placed the first disc on the deck and went with it. It is not that bad but it is not that good, an opportunity missed I think and that may conform to Rick Wakeman’s opinion as well and let’s face it he never ran screaming from the thought of overblown. Maybe his problem was there was no plan for the ballet, of course I bet Jon Anderson has had that thought.

There are some truly stunning moments that at times overcome the legend of the album but let’s face it there was probably a great single album here that was aching to get out.

In a real effort to overcome the 90 minutes or so of Tales From Topographic Oceans I took the well judged decision to immerse myself in the Icicle Works second best album The Small Price of a Bicycle, it does contain their best song with Rapids though.

horseJingle Jangle guitar rock to put their then peers to shame, their major problem commercially was probably that they never managed a consistent sound. Guitars and drums to die for was the signature noise the Icicle Works made but each song often stands alone. They rocked like gods live and sounded like a cross between Crazy Horse and the Byrds on record.

The Small Price of a Bicycle may be their most cohesive effort but not their best, that we save for another day if I find a copy of Blind. It does contain some of their best songs with Hollow Horse, Rapids and Conscience of Kings and Windfall sounds like Ian McNabb was channeling Hank Marvin on speed in the guitar playing.

Never as big as their contemporaries they don’t sound as dated now mostly I think because of that restless nature of their sound even though this was considered a setback at the time it has become a strength. Of course the biggest asset they had was Ian McNabb’s songwriting guitar which was based on a fans idea of what a rock band should sound like.

 

Riding high on a wanderlust…

It’s been a week of anxiety and concern in the household as children made big decisions and parents looked on with concern and fear at times.

Suddenly everything seems OK. Admittedly the decision is only dodged and not finally settled but it is still preferable and we have a year to look at wrapping good thoughts around him.

When things are going well it is time to pull out a joyous album from the dim and distant 80’s in the shape of The Icicle Works eponymous first album.icicle Pop psychedelia at it’s best and there is Chris Sharrock’s drumming to rock your world, seldom has one drummer sounded like three having a good time.

Of course there is the necessary hits with (Birds Fly) Whisper to a Scream and Love Is A Wonderful Colour but the other tracks like the Floydian psychedelia of Nirvana and the drama of Lover’s Day as well as Factory In The Desert and Chop the Tree is were the true glory of the album is. Yes they went on to better and bigger sounding albums ending the original lineup with the monster of Blind and it’s eclectic mix of styles but the first album is the one I constantly go back to when like today things are good.

The copy I have is a US version that misses out my favourite Reap the Rich Harvest but it is still a classic moment of how not everything in 80’s music sucked and it makes me smile. The three of them look about 12 years old on the cover as well.