Thunder Power/Icarus Himself; April 18, 2009; The Frequency
It happened again. With a name like Thunder Power I expected the third band on the bill for the Icarus Himself CD release to be a ballsy, blustery, perhaps even cartoonish, hard rock band. Nope. In fact, the Omaha group fell just short of Belle & Sebastian on the twee meter. Despite the deception, they were likeable enough, their nerdy folkishness endearing. The only problem was the diminishing returns on co-vocalist Kacynna Thompset’s voice. Her affected vibrato was used more as an instrument with a shortage of recognizable words and went from intriguing to infuriating in the length of their set.
After that I just didn’t have the energy to stick around for the National Beekeepers Society. At least I got to see the guest of honor who played second despite the fact that it was their CD release show. Icarus Himself had started as the solo project of lead Beekeeper Nick Whetro but over time has become a duo with NBS guitarist and head Cribshitter Karl Christenson. Their second release Coffins follows a self-titled EP released last year. Since I don’t like EPs simply because they are too short, I only listened to that record a few times before putting it on the shelf. This record’s fate should be better. In addition to the solid new tunes, a few old favorites make an appearance.
“Scars” was the highlight of the Beekeepers first disc, and shines again here as a stripped down and darkly moody ode to a girl who “has very discerning tastes in what she wears and who she hates.” While it conjured comparisons to Pavement the first time around, allusions I’ve seen to Neutral Milk Hotel seem more appropriate now. I first heard “January (Tennessee)” as a Sleeping in the Aviary song, but I’m guessing it is a cowrite from the group of friends since it also shows up here. On disc, the songs consist of layers of sound. Live that effect is mimicked with the use of pre-recorded tracks. I’ve seen that machine cause trouble in the past, but it flowed smoothly tonight.
As a postscript to the show, local label Science of Sound, home to some of Madison’s best bands (including Sleeping in the Aviary and the Pale Young Gentlemen), re-released the disc on their label only two weeks after the release. Good news for Icarus as the label does a very good job of supporting their acts.