Icarus The Owl

The Spotless Mind

Written by: TL on 29/08/2010 20:47:40

At first listen, Oregon-based four-piece Icarus The Owl might - despite labelling themselves as rock/pop-punk - be mistaken for the flavour of the week in the department of clean-vocals post-hardcore. Sure enough, there are high-pitched vocals and lofty guitars playing blistering melodies, so fans of Dance Gavin Dance, Saosin, Circa Survive and Emarosa should be lured in instantly, while breakdowns and screams however, are so scarce that fans of A Skylit Drive and Bless The Fall and the likes could probably feel a bit ostracized. Tough shit for them I guess, us who are still interested should be curious to see if there's more to love on closer inspection, so let's pop the bonnet and see what makes this band tick shall we?

Listening to the band's first LP "The Spotless Mind", it quickly becomes apparent that these four dudes are likely to be somewhat brainy types. Firstly, they've managed to secure an impressive production of a fourteen track long LP, despite being unsigned, so one is inclined to think at least one of them knows his way around recording equipment. Second, the way rhythms change swiftly and the way notes dance up and down the guitar neck, you're often going to find yourself impressed. The cheeky bastards likely know this too, having made both guitar tabs and time signatures available for nerdy types to have a crack at if so inclined.

Basically, you have guitars alá Will Swan (Dance Gavin Dance) and Thomas Erak (The Fall Of Troy) running rampant atop often changing rhythms, while the sound all together struggles to restrain itself within a reasonably catchy and chorus-oriented format. On top, singer/guitarist Joey Rubenstein delivers excellent high pitched croons, sounding somewhere in between Danny Stevens (The Audition) and Pierrick Berube (LoveHateHero), only interrupted by screaming on the rarest of occasions.

On one hand, this does indeed make Icarus The Owl sound similar to a lot of other players in the p-hc field, believe you me, I have struggled not to make the "For The Fans Of" list as long as my arm. The upside difference is that there is obviously a whole lot more going on technically, than is the cases with most of the competitors. The downside however, is that at fourteen tracks, highlights such as "Running From Lacuna", "La Charlière" and "Invertebrate", drown a little in a production, despite being crystal clear, does little to help the individual song stand out from the mass. As such, I feel a little like I'm sowing the diamonds from the rubies, and like the former make the latter shine less in comparison. On one hand, I'm overjoyed to find such ambitious and well-performed music in a genre that still emphasizes melodies and memorability, and so much of it - but on the other, I also feel like a more versatile production and just a bit more focus, could have produced a more eclectic parade of highlights.

Don't be mistaken though, ICO have at the very least the same potential as the leading contemporaries, and as lenghty a record as this seems an indication that they're not going to run out of ideas or motivation any time soon. Something which is sadly more than can be said about many similar bands who put out an EP and then break up. They've had me tilting between 7½ and 8 for a while now, and in the end, I am willing to err on the side of caution - just because things do seem a bit samey to me towards the end of the album. However, if you're into things post-hardcore and/or experimental, and you like to discover bands while they're still fresh (sort of, album was released in 09), this is a definite pick-up for you.

Download: Running From Lacuna, Disposable Company Makes A Lonely Man, La Charlière, Invertebrate
For The Fans Of: City Escape, I Never Heard The Bullet, LoveHateHero, Dance Gavin Dance,
Listen: myspace.com/icarustheowl

Release Date 28.05.2009

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