The British are coming with cool imports

by Beacon Staff • February 15, 2006

That particular influx may have received the most press, but the invasion never stopped.,More than 40 years ago, news outlets around the country covered "the British Invasion," when groups like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Kinks attacked the charts and stole the hearts of prepubescent girls from Seattle to Orlando.

That particular influx may have received the most press, but the invasion never stopped. From New Order and Duran Duran to Oasis and Blur, some of America's most popular acts have come from across the pond.

The latest wave came in the last two years in the form of post-punk disciples like Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand.

Domino, the record label of the latter, is releasing new CDs for two of its up-and-coming imports-Arctic Monkeys and Test Icicles-looking to parlay their way into international success.

Franz Ferdinand is perhaps the most fitting example of the new sound: rock music heavily influenced by the bass-driven post-punk scene, incorporating dance rhythms pioneered by The Clash and Talking Heads two decades ago.

Franz Ferdinand has had the most mainstream success because of its easily accessible music and relatively clean-cut and presentable image (despite the members' stereotypically poor dental hygiene).

Now, imagine if instead of the most posh London club, the FF lads hung around a dive pub in Leeds, letting obscenities fly, slamming back ale and chain-smoking while watching the Manchester/Arsenal football match on the telly, and you'll get the idea of the Arctic Monkeys.

Such a strange name might not be known around households in Peoria, but the UK has gone bananas for the Monkeys; the band's mugs and quotes have graced the cover of NME (New Musical Express, the Anglican version of Rolling Stone) for weeks, not to mention the group has both a sold-out tour and the fastest selling debut album in British history. (The fever is catching on slowly here as well-the Monkeys' show in March at the Paradise is sold out, and the $12 tickets are netting $50-100 from scalpers on the Internet.)

From the first track on the debut album, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not (which is due to be released in the States next Tuesday), the Arctic Monkeys seem intent to cause chaos at concerts everywhere with a strange style of slightly unpolished and angular dance punk.

The sharp, jagged guitars and fast, choppy beats are complimented by singer Alex Turner's inimitable British snarl.

Words like "have" are replaced by "'afs," lines are "queues," and strange phrasings are used like "did you see she were beautiful."

For a group of riotous rockers, however, the Monkeys come off as extremely well-read and well-spoken.

The album is filled with clever, tongue twisting titles like "You Probably Couldn't See For the Light But You Were Staring Straight at Me," "Perhaps Vampires is a Bit Strong, But ..." and "Red Light Indicates Doors are Secure."

This attention to literate language come through in the songs; the lyrics to "I Bet That You Look Good on the Dancefloor" also contain clever allusions to all the important writers from Orwell to Shakespeare (and even LeBon-"Your name's not Rio but I don't like sand").

Although the members could possibly spend their days curled up with a copy of King Lear, the lyrics make it apparent that evenings are filled by a swinging night life.

Tracks like "Still Take You Home" highlight the beginnings of a one-night stand: "It's ever so funny, I don't think you're special, I don't think you're cool / You're probably just alreyt, but under these lights you look beautiful."

This theme is expanded upon in "Dancefloor," where the atmosphere is "just banging tunes in DJ sets and dirty dancefloors and dreams of naughtiness."

This dirtiness comes through in the music, which is more fitting for the streets; "Riot Van" tells the story of a group of young hooligans, their minor exploits and eventual capture by the law ("He got thrown in the riot van / And all the coppers kicked him in / And there was no way he could win / Just had to take it on the chin").

But as nasty as the Monkeys can get, they seem like upstanding young gentlemen compared to Test Icicles, who aren't ready for late-night bar fights, yet.

The group is seemingly stuck in adolescence, judging from the junior-high wordplay of its name and the cover of its first CD, For Screening Purposes Only (which is available now), which shows a typical teen's bedroom, complete with scattered musical instruments, comic books and half-eaten Domino's Pizzas.

The album begins with the assault of "Your Biggest Mistake," which draws most of its inspiration from the fast finger flicking of metal. The drums come in quickly, followed by stereo-switching guitars and a howling voice.

Many of the tracks on For Screening Purposes Only have the same flirtations with overt noise; with members Samuel E. Dangerr, Devente Hynes and Rory Aggwelt all sharing guitar and vocal duties, the combination tends to muddle the mixes on the majority of the tracks.

This love of loudness is coupled with the Icicles' stereotypically angsty lyrics that surely fuel mosh pits at shows.

Songs like "Party on Dudes (Get Hype)" and "All You Need Is Blood" are average headbangers led by shrieking guitar riffs and upbeat tempos made by guys who show more allegiance to Wayne and Garth than Lennon and McCartney.

The immaturity reveals itself again through the lyrics, like the simplistic "Sharks:" "Woah, yeah / don't f-k with those sharks / Sharks will kill everything / Sharks will take everything."

The Icicles have a similarly animalistic view of romance as "Catch It!" evidences when the song's narrator "met a girl that's the color of piss / and sucked her dry for the acidic taste ... yeah, yeah, bitches don't know me / yeah, yeah, bitches don't own me." (Thanks to the distorted screaming, precious few of these shrieks can be understood without a lyric sheet).

But Test Icicles shows some spotty brilliance, like the mid-song breakdown in "Catch It!," which adds a droning drum machine to a shredding guitar riff.

Tracks like "Circle. Square. Triangle." and "Boa Vs. Python" balance the band's hard sound with quick beats for appealing songs with some edge.

With both bands appearing in America in the near future (the closest Test Icicles are coming to us is New York) and with each scheduled to play at the influential South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas next month, it won't be too long to see if the bands that are causing anarchy in the UK can do the same in the US.,Bryan O'Toole