It’s hard to think of a failed “next big thing” that’s generated less schadenfreude than The Icarus Line. 2004′s Penance Soiree was a raw, screeching and antisocial rock record made by an antisocial band, the kind that you feel like the label heads were the real suckers and The Icarus Line were in on the joke. Too bad the Los Angeles group returned seven years later for Wildlife, a strangely compensatory attempt to make the pop songs that might’ve been expected of them on Soiree.
Recorded live in Joe Cardamone’s studio with minimal overdubs, Slave Vows blows away any lingering commercial prospects and freaks out any squares that might have stuck around in the process. Taking all kinds of liberties with the Stooges and MC5′s back catalog, Slave Vows starts off with an 11-minute psych-drone odyssey (“Dark Circles”) and only gets more abrasive from there. Amidst all the feedback and foggy keyboard ambience, The Icarus Line proves to be a band more interested in hypnosis than sheer sonic terrorism. The record’s thesis statement is called “No Money Music” for a reason — most of Cardamone’s lyrics rail against the doomed economy inside and outside of the record industry. And yet, in rediscovering a new source of vitriol and making the most uncompromising music of their career, The Icarus Line remind you of why they managed to excite the suits to begin with.