LICE - 'Wasteland: What Ails Our People Is Clear' Album Review
It's a bold move in the age of rampant hyperactive stupidity to release something as archaic as an album that actually has something meaningful to say but here we are. LICE have crafted a meticulous piece of work that, if you're feeling exceptionally like a lazy music critic, falls somewhere within the nebulous Post-Punk adjacent wave of music currently seeping through musical currents. But it is equally indebted to Industrial noise, Situationist tracts, and the spirit of meaningful satirical creation.
Burroughs and the Dadaists popularized stroke birthed the cut-up technique and LICE fit the bill of those forebears all over on a stunningly ambitious and pretentious debut album. And I mean that with all praise. Something greater than the sum of it's parts, except the parts here wave like some sort of industrial octopus, and it can wave those tentacles with a hypnotic danceable freakish grace as on 'Persuader', or it can pummel one track away as the riffs on 'Arbiter' suggest. There are elements of Prog-like time signature bending and actual passages, and guitar tones with something of a spaghetti western feel. As all good groups should, there is a rhythm section that provides an immense foundation to such lofty words and melodies, carrying us through propulsive hammer beats and twisting spoken word with equal ease.
The variation of musical ideas on display is a testament to an album that comes out of the gate fully formed, as quite a startling number of bands of similar ilk are doing lately. As an American I can only marvel at whatever the hell particular spirit or “something in the water” has possessed the other side of the Atlantic and this is no different. Admittedly the band have rendered a big chunk of my job here pointless as they've gone to great lengths to ensure that we know what the fuck they're talking about in co-releasing a treatise/manifesto/companion sci-fi story with the album (read it at https://www.settledlawrecords.co.uk) but also providing an in-depth track by track analysis via their facebook. From the Futurists to Rowland S. Howard, Paul Muldoon and Laurie Anderson, the influences are numerous and varied, and more considered than your average intellectual magpie. The trick is to navigate those influences and blend them into something unique. These four make it seem remarkably easy. The end result is an album that satirizes conventions and embraces them with a back-facing knife firmly in hand, artistic and thought-provoking without being inscrutable, a synthesis of all that has come before to point towards something novel and even hopeful in it's cynicism. But all the flowery language and concepts aside, it's also just Really Good. If I hadn't looked for any intellectual context here this would still be one of my favorite releases I've unexpectedly stumbled on in a very long while just because you can either dance to it or have an existential crisis.
It's an undeniably heady piece of something that is hard-pressed to be found lately, an album that rocks and pokes and prods and means something. Add it to your collection ASAP.
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/licebristol/
Review - Julian Hepworth