Test Icicles For Screening Purposes Only

[Domino; 2006]

Rating: 4/5

Styles:  spazzcoredancepunk
Others: The Blood Brothers, The Rapture, Liars, Ex Models

You might be tempted to write Test Icicles off as another buzz band from the UK, and who could blame you? With the recent crop of over-rated bands like Kasabian, The Kaiser Chiefs, and Bloc Party, it'd be easy to lump Test Icicles into that same crowd. But that'd be a mistake about the same size as NME's boner for Arctic Monkeys.

The best representation of Test Icicles' neon-guitar'd aesthetic comes in the form of "Circle. Square. Triangle.," easily the band's most accessible song, if not their best. It's really nothing new — a simple dance beat, angular guitar, synthesizer, and a funky bass line — but the band plays with such energy that they take those parts and flip them to make something not-so-new but just as good, if not better. Like when you used to ignore the instructions for that LEGO castle and build a totally righteous spaceship.

Vocalist Sam Merrann sounds about the same way you'd imagine Jordan Billie and Johnny Whitney from The Blood Brothers would if they were one singular screaming entity. For the most part, he just sing-shouts in a bratty whine, but on songs like "Your Biggest Mistake" and "Maintain the Focus," Merrann's voice is particularly acidic. You'll swear you're listening to a madman hell-bent on completely shredding his vocal chords.

But like The Futureheads' first record, the major flaw with For Screening Purposes Only is that it never lets up. There's a nice 50-second interlude after "Pull the Lever," and it acts as a palette cleanser for the one-two punch of "Boa vs Python" and "Circle. Square. Triangle." But that's the only time the energy level drops below face-melting, and one can't help but think that the album would be easier to digest if it had a few more of those dips in intensity. (There is another one after "All You Need Is Blood," but it's a little too mood-y to have the same effect.) Other than that, the only misstep is "Catch It!" The band fumbles around while the song tries to find its footing before falling flat on its face, surrounded by bleeps and squeaks. The song really disrupts the flow of the album, but not in the good way an interlude would've.

If you can get past the hype, you'll find that For Screening Purposes Only is a solid, sometimes spectacular debut from an exciting group of young'uns (two of the three members are only 19). But if you just toss Test Icicles aside as one of the many in the new batch of ballyhooed bands, then, hey, that's your loss buddy.

1. Your Biggest Mistake
2. Pull the Lever
3. Interlude
4. Boa vs Python
5. Circle. Square. Triangle.
6. Catch It!
7. Maintain the Focus
8. Snowball
9. What's Your Damage?
10. All You Need Is Blood
11. Sharks
12. Dancing on Pegs
13. Party on Dudes (Get Hype)
14. What's Michelle Like?
15. What's in the Box?