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And there is the Icarus Line's justification for hooliganism, except, they'll admit, for what they do to keep themselves entertained on tour. But North, who at one time wanted to be a rock journalist, is still concerned about misconceptions.
First: despite the overwhelming popularity of Buddyhead.com, which reports 9.5 million hits a day, which he and Travis Keller started because they were tired of being "censored" in their respective writing and photography careers, he does not feel like a success in any way.
"If I were successful, I'd be able to pay my bills," he says flatly.
Second: "People think we think we're badasses. I don't think I'm a badass," he says. "I'm a little dude. I'm five-seven. We're not trying to pretend we're tough guys. We don't think we're tough. We don't think we're crazy. It bums me out if people think we think we're nuts because we don't—but it's this vicious circle.
"We're just trying to play a show, and some fucking dude comes up to the stage and wants to fuck with us to see if we're as badass as we think we are, so he'll pour beer all over my pedals, so I have to kick him in the face to get him off my shit. And then it's like, 'See, see what they did? They're dicks, they're assholes, fuck those guys.'"The Icarus Line's official press bio by Buddyhead.com's Keller: "BE WARNED: the Icarus line are able to meet any audience on its own terms, no matter what charming devilish bullshit the crowd might think up. They'd like to fuck you up and blow you to the back of the room, all while doing their street-strutting Jaggerisms. Members of the band often enter the audience to see exactly what's what, and even from the stage, their piercing-red smeared eyes reach out searchingly through the onlookers, sweeping the joint and singling out hecklers. Hey, there, you in the crowd . . . this is your stage as well as theirs, and if you can take it away from them . . . well, fuck, buddy, you're welcome to it! But good luck because the kings of the motherfucking mountain must maintain the pace, as well as the authority, and few can. In this sense, the Icarus Line are of the rarest kind. They have won the stage, and nothing but the force of their own presence entitles them to it. This world-traveling act is wide open. Do your worst, mate, falsify the Icarus Line! It's your night, pal! 'Man, I could get up there and cut that shit.' Well, here's your chance . . . but there's no takers. People stare and gawk, and at most crowd the front of the stage, even though it's danger in the front row. This ain't like watching monkeys take shits at the zoo, kids, and these aren't caged animals. Approach at your own risk, for there is always the chance of having a limb or an organ picked at in the shuffle of it all. Yeah, it's safe to say that this band will scare the shit out of your mom."
By the time the Icarus Line take the stage at the Knitting Factory later that night, the room is filled with sweaty bodies. The band isn't sporting the matching black shirts and red ties they used to wear, but they're a little more pulled-together than earlier in the afternoon. Cardamone's eyes—flat, blank, unflinching—are smeared with red eye shadow. He slithers like Iggy and shakes his hips like Morrison; in between songs, when the audience claps, he absent-mindedly claps, too. North has a thick band of black makeup over his eyes, making him look like a bandit or a refugee. With Devore and DeGuzman, he thrashes around the stage enough to distract you from Cardamone, who doesn't.
The sound—like on the album—is elephantine and psychedelic. The intensity supersaturates it. You can't really make out Cardamone's lyrics—most of which are about drugs and love, but not in the old peacenik way—but his reedy upper-register howling—a little bit angry, a little bit frail, a little bit strung-out—says enough. This is something with heart, something with meaning, which comes as a surprise given the bands' allegiance to drugs famous for sapping meaning, motivation and soul.
As the Icarus Line winds up their set, North gets frustrated with sound problems. He hangs over his amp—on the face, he's painted, "punk is dead"—trying to fix something in the back, playing all the while, his legs dangling in front of the amp. Finally, he lifts his guitar in the air and runs, jamming it as hard as he can into the wall. It breaks, but it doesn't break right, so he smashes it into the ground repeatedly until it splinters.
Pardon me, but what the fuck?What about all that stuff he said about his equipment being his only possession and blah, blah, blah?
"The neck was breaking," he says to you later. "I was just giving it a proper burial."A record review of the (International) Noise Conspiracy'sYour Choice Live Series that Cardamone wrote on Buddyhead.com: "There is nothing remotely dangerous or revolutionary about this band or its music. Just 'cos you buy the Fender twin and rock the threads don't make you the real deal. Never a sense that the car could swerve out of control and wreak [sic], never a sense that any member of this band has experienced suffering for art. And you have to suffer for art. It's the truth."