You know what you’re in for after 10 seconds of You’re Nothing, the second album from Copenhagen punk prodigies Iceage. Guitar and bass twist into an amorphous, fuzzed-out battering ram. The hi-hat skitters around like a rabid centipede. And a moment later, lead singer Elias Bender Rønnenfelt wanders in, moaning. Or perhaps howling. Wailing?
My thesaurus gives me “yawp,” “ululate,” and “bay at the moon,” each of which describes at least one song here, but Bender, who recorded his first single at 15 (and would be a college junior today, had he applied to college), is too multifarious a vocalist to be fenced in with any single verb. He’s an expressive singer whose vocal range spans about an octave, excluding the occasional scream. He doesn’t lean back from the microphone to breathe. For most of the album, his lyrics and delivery bring to mind a man clinging to the side of a lifeboat while a giant squid tries to pull him off. “Pressure! Pressure! Oh god no!” he, um, vocalizes, on lead track “Ecstasy.” Things get worse on “Coalition”: “All my senses are leaving me! I don’t know where I’m going!”
You’re Nothing is a sensory overload—four tempos in one song, jangly guitar melodies blurring into sudden storms of feedback, an interlude that could be licensed as the intro for a post-apocalyptic Western. Sometimes, without warning, Bender stops yelling at the world and starts on us: “Don’t leave me!”; “We’re running out of time!”; “Where’s your morals!?” (That last one might have been to the giant squid. It’s hard to tell.)
And it’s almost all fantastic. Twelve songs in 28 minutes, no instant catchy melodies, but nothing you’ll want to skip (save maybe “Rodfæstet”, sung in Danish and otherwise unremarkable). There’s the jangly “In Haze” for your good moods, the morose “Morals” for your bad moods, and in the final, title track, a middle finger to the many giant squids of the world: “You’re nothing! You’re nothing!”