OK. Deep breath. Here we go. Drum-roll. Drrrrrrrrrrrrrrr… Right, not a lot of people know this… but… The Beatles were rubbish. Toss. Crud. Cack. They ruined pop music; for me, for you, for all of us… the utter bastards.
See, I love ‘Yellow Submarine’ as much as the next schmuck, and, y’know, catchy songs and all that, but their anointment as sacred cows a mere five years after the birth of the most thrilling cultural medium ever – pop music – effectively stymied its development before it ever had a chance to get out of nappies. The Beatles, bound by early acclaim, held back the progress of pop for 45 years, giving us an ideal, a rulebook, and an early watermark of pop’s utter brilliance. How many times have you heard the phrase “bigger than The Beatles”?
London trio Test Icicles know that there’s no place in pop for sacred cows or rulebooks. They know that pop music is about mum asking you to turn the volume down, not, “Your dad looked a lot like Ringo when he was 18.” They know pop should be free to be what it wants to be. Test Icicles don’t care one hoot for being bigger than The Beatles. They don’t care about anything other than what happens next.
If NWA had collaborated with Slayer, then you imagine they’d have penned a song as savage as single ‘Boa Vs Python’. It sounds like Wu-Tang Clan dressed as Vikings and pillaging the black-metal community,
while Sam Merrann’s vocals sound like he’s making that noise – a gnarled frequency akin to a haemorrhaging mother wolf – for the first time.
Elsewhere, it’s the three guitars that make Test Icicles’ debut so dangerous, and Devonte Hynez and Rory Aggwelt’s duelling machete-sharp metal licks serrate the band’s melodic grounding like skewers through Play-Doh. ‘Pull The Lever’ is like the moment you encountered the John Peel show/picked up NME/stumbled into a rock gig, and left later in the direction of your local record shop, a changed person. ‘Dancing On Pegs’, meanwhile, is a veritable “isn’t music brilliant?” moment, epitomising all that is so eccentric about Test Icicles’ sonic adventure. It sounds like they’ve never heard any music before, like they believe they’re the first band to have ever made a noise like this. To an extent, they’re right.
Test Icicles take hardcore punk, doom metal, hip-hop, funk, avant pop and 400bpm gabba, and squish those forms into new, enthralling shapes. Cynics will say they sound like a band lost, without an idea of what they want to be, but like all pop pioneers – including The Beatles before their pan-generational beatification – they’re asking questions of who they want to be with every song on the record, never putting a roof on their ambitions.
This is a record that wipes the board clean. It’s a record that will invigorate and re-energise. Too many of our greatest bands have had their ambitions buffered by everything The Beatles achieved so early (the Pistols, The Smiths, the Roses, Oasis, The Libertines), but Test Icicles will inspire a generation who are striving for the next noise, the next trip. Like the birth of pop, it will make you believe that anything is possible. You are free.