Album Review: Iceage – Shake the Feeling: Outtakes & Rarities 2015-2021

[Mexican Summer; 2022]

Shake the Feeling: Outtakes & Rarities 2015–2021 features tracks written and recorded during Danish band Iceage’s most fertile period, a stretch that yielded 2014’s Plowing Into the Field of Love, 2018’s Beyondless, and 2021’s Seek Shelter. For the most part, the songs stand on their own, exceeding demo status, while still providing behind-the-scenes insight into the quartet’s/quintet’s aesthetic proclivities, creative process, and eclecticism.

“All the Junk on the Outskirts”, built around a hissing drum machine and ringing guitar part, stands as Shake the Feeling’s most polished offering, opening the sequence on a high note. Singer Elias Bender Rønnenfelt delivers a narcotized yet still mercurial vocal, addressing, in proverbial post-punk fashion, the bleakness of the contemporary landscape (“Then the collected loneliness of the world strikes me / a finger on the doorbell at the apartment housings of defeat”).

The title song, recorded during the Beyondless sessions, points to mid-career The Replacements as much as the grungy pop of Soul Asylum. Perhaps excluded from Beyondless for its relatively buoyant sound, incongruent with the weightier mood the band was curating, the track highlights Iceage’s diverse interests and broad stylistic absorptions.

The somewhat scattered cover of Bob Dylan’s “I’ll Keep It with Mine” is of particular interest, demonstrating how Dylan’s tautological musical style and radical lyricism circa the mid-60s have become inextricable from the punk legacy, including Iceage’s penchant for what might be dubbed poetic sprawl-punk (as opposed to declarative pop-punk). “I’m Ready to Make a Baby” is an additional example of Dylan’s understated yet integral influence. The prominent bass riff and circular instrumentation land as a drunken tip of the hat to “Highway 61”. Rønnenfelt’s fairly unmelodic yet still gripping vocal owes as much to Dylan as it does to Lou Reed or Peter Murphy.

On “Balm of Gilead”, the band navigates clamorous guitars and staccato breaks, speeding up and slowing down, driven by caprice more than the metronome. There’s a sloppiness here that’s appealing and apropos for an outtakes release. “Order Meets Demand” revolves around a rollicky guitar part and welter of drums as well as Rønnenfelt’s sarcastic counter to Maslow’s self-actualization model (“First I crawled, then I started to walk / then I cried but now I mostly talk”). The song contains one of the album’s more intriguing bridges, busy drums and melodic guitars pivoting into a riffy closure.

“Lockdown Blues” mines a retro gestalt a la The Stones’ Exile on Main Street, even as the lyrical theme (surviving COVID) is uber-modish. As the track unfurls, it morphs into a loose and punkish jam that brings to mind Goat’s outtakes release from last year, Headsoup. The album closes with an acoustic version of “Shelter Song” (from Seek Shelter), the stripped-down form limelighting Rønnenfelt’s nuanced vocal and the song’s encouraging theme (love/relationship as sanctuary from the brutalities of the world).

The big missing, perhaps, is that Shake the Feeling fails to serve up any alt-glimpses into Iceage’s use of supplementary instrumentation, one of the band’s key contributions to the post-punk playbook, particularly on Beyondless and Seek Shelter. Maybe there aren’t any cuts in the Iceage archives that reflect the use of horns, strings, etc. Still, given the significance of these applications in the band’s latter work, the absence is notable.

That said, the set accomplishes what one might expect from a collection of outtakes – exuding a restless and inchoate energy, functioning like a snapshot of an actor prior to the application of makeup. Occasionally uneven, even if aptly so, the album is an engaging addition to the Iceage oeuvre.