Icebird
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Icebird

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Icebird's Magnitude might be the best indie-rock album out of LA all year. - Time Out New York


Spotlighting the best of local music: Icebird
by Evan George

Something horrible happened around 1994 that fundamentally changed the face of modern music: the fuzzy, flannelly gruffness of so-called “grunge” was stripped from the wimpy arms of thoughtful, college-educated dudes like lunch money and bestowed upon the posed laurels of jock apes. For the latter part of the ’90s, these idiots were open-picking all over the airwaves (see Seven Mary Three, Collective Soul), causing all of us sincere guitar fans to run into the open arms of synthesizers and irony. But alas, it’s 2006 and there are bands like L.A.’s Icebird who are trying to make right what went so tragically wrong a decade ago.

Icebird is a Koreatown trio (Barry Monahan on guitar/vocals, Kate Wise on drums and Mike Monahan on bass) that unflinchingly pays tribute to real rock bands like Mission of Burma, the Wipers, and Jesus Lizard without sounding retro. In fact, the three are so adept at breathing new life into the oft-neglected art of rocking powerfully, they’re like revisionist historians. The band’s pace-27 percent faster live than on record, they claim-and their tight, sweaty chops separate them immediately from the vast majority of those playing music in this city. After all, L.A. may have a slew of great bands, but few of them are rock and roll bands.

On their 2006 debut full-length Magnitude, Icebird doesn’t bother with the periphery stuff (poetics, lengthy concepts, scene posturing) so much as they shoot straight to the heart of the matter. Like any stellar three piece, the bass is more percussive than tonal. Between the younger Monahan’s bass work and Wise’s impeccable pounding, the album chugs along like a well-oiled machine. Above the groove, the elder Monahan warbles like a regular northwest warrior.

Icebird won’t make you wonder what year it is. They’ll make you mourn the 12 years we’ve lost, and all the riffing we’ve missed out on. - LA Alternative


I’ve always been led to believe that Los Angeles had a dark, dangerous and complicated core. A walk through Hollywood (in the daytime, no less) is enough to give you chills. I’d just always assumed that with Beverly Hills a mile away it’s probably just a superficial ploy to stunt western migration. Icebird is a Koreatown threesome with enough scary energy to suggest that beneath the dirty surface and glam interior, strange things actually do cultivate in the city’s wet corners. The band seems to have grown out of the ‘90s grit that most bands today are too scared to build on. For all the countless Nine Inch Nails imitators, nobody was man enough to take on the Jesus Lizard?

Icebird is game, and Magnitude is a raw, ferocious debut. “The Clap the Burn the End” is a safe enough opener. What’s good for Franz Ferdinand is probably good for a band working to get noticed, and the band spins Gang of Four’s “Ether” to its advantage. The stilted, direct guitar heads on a bee line around the vocals, but things get a little messier as the album progresses. “The Starting Line” is a good example of that. Lead singer Barry Monahan (his brother Mike on bass and Kate Wise on drums close out the group) feeds off the Jesus Lizard’s David Yow by slowing down to speak at times (“Birthday Party”) before going back to sounding like Satan. I’m pretty sure Yow is trapped in a nightmare somewhere, and Magnitude gives off that same vibe.

Fans of the Meat Puppets’ early work will like what they get here. Icebird is relentless with the cavalier wailing over quick-fingered super-speed guitar work (although the Meat Puppets similarities end there). Monahan seems to have taken the rest of his vocal style from Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, with always-desperate and occasionally drawn-out “harmonizing” (“Ohio” and “The Real Pretend”). Those who like their punk in short, sporadic bursts would probably rather Icebird hadn’t taken that quality from Sonic Youth. Some of the tracks are a bit too ambitious in length, although as I await Oliver Stone’s Alexander from Netflix I have to remember that it’s better to fail on the side of ambition. This is a minor issue, and the members of Icebird even manage to nail it when they think Minutemen on the seventy-four-second-long “Hollywon’t.”

For those who have fallen into a rut trying to find the next Shins, Magnitude is a dirty little surprise that reminds us that punk can be indie, too. And it’s comforting to know people are still doing weird things behind closed doors in L.A. - Prefix Magazine


Icebird hail from a little stardust-tinged town called Los Angeles, you may have heard of it - on the coastal edge of California. You need to know about Icebird, a trio that immediately jumps out of the gates on Magnitude - their debut release on LA's Flying Squirrel Records. This is an LP that visits ground infiltrated by past "rock" giants Unwound (the instrumentation), Sonic Youth (Barry Monahan's unkempt, coarse delivery; again the style) and - before I drop this, remember all the good you new about them - Nirvana (hear: "My second guessing"). Particularly on the latter example, you have Barry on lead vocals and guitar (he flunked guitar class twice!) as well as Kate Wise, drummer / vocals, lending her spectacular voice all seamed together by brother Mikes (Monahan) 4-string pattern holding. I must add, they rip through a ferocious number called "Hollywon't" that revels no distinguishable lyrics - only a little over a minute of free-form fury, that lead's into the albums closer "Ababa Bababa" that holds nothing back.

There's no catch here, no glam or gimmick - just 3 talented friends entering a recording space, picking up their tools and laying down a true rock album. For a debut record this distant from the current 'norm' to see light is one blessing - but for said album to also be the initial release on an upstart label (Flying Squirrel) is a treasure and a sign of, hopefully, things yet to come.

Sure, some kids are gonna be confused as to why there are only 3 members in a band - versus 7, and why the music they are hearing isn't immediately fit for selling common automobiles on commercial television - but hopefully a band like Icebird can reverse some of the damage done to our warped youth. A damn fine album, enough said! - Slightly Confusing to a Stranger (SCTAS.com)


No matter how they sound, when you hear a group play and you feel passion and love for the music then you know the band’s great, and trust me Los Angeles’ Icebird have loads of passion for their art and it brims over with every song.

Although to classify this group as post-punk would be wrong I would definitely call this arty (but not farty) rock with tinges of Joy Division, Sonic Youth and Television scattered throughout. Completed by the sheer wall of noise the band creates you know you’ve got something good here. Jagged guitar lines, droning feedback and dominant basslines feature heavily in the album. One gets the feeling that the band is one big sparking ball of energy ready to torch the world, screaming (and yes the vocalist screams) its way through. But it has melody cranked up to eleven and the tunes have a way of drilling their way into your head. Plus its a forty minute rush that doesn’t flag once, so its got your attention from the first (and opener ‘The Clap The Burn The End’ makes a statement) to the last note.
If I have one complaint I would say its the production. If it was less muffled the band’s fury would come thru better, but it doesn’t stop you from enjoying this album. So yeah, cool by name and cool by nature. The Icebird cometh!
- Alternative Malta


This is the debut album from Los Angeles indie rock trio Icebird, and it is fully capable of replacing coffee as a way to wake yourself up in the morning. Guitarist/vocalist Barry Monahan gets the kind of rattle out of his guitar that would make a baby jealous. It is this constant raging, jagged guitar sound as heard on "The Clap the Burn the End," "Birthday Party" and nearly everywhere else on MAGNITUDE that is one of the two focal points of the album. The other is the singing of Monahan, which varies between pleading, voice breaking volume on the scorching "ABABA BABABA" to plaintive on the mellower "My Second Guessing," during which he is joined by drummer Kate Wise. - Connell Burton McDaniel - Synthesis Magazine


Icebird has a lot of things going for them; Harkening back to early nineties alternate garage rock a la' Sonic Youth and even Nirvana circa Bleach, this three-piece creates an authentic grunge feel that alternates between loud and soft with subtle rhythm changes. A lot of what makes this album successful are the songs themselves; they are focused and straight-forward providing memorable lines and singable vocals, and break from their structure just enough to remain interesting. Each song varies its own personal intensity through the course of the track, making it hard to define whether a song is strictly hard or soft. This is an interesting effect that heightens the feel of the album and keeps you guessing as the album progresses.

There is a good amount of energy and vibe to be had. Also, there is hope that the band might latch onto a good producer who can capture their true essence and take them that next step towards greatness.

Personally I will continue to keep this in the rotation because it reminds me of all of the crappy good albums I have listened to - so I get a nostalgic fix just putting on the headphones and being carried away to a different time and place. - Hybird Magazine


Coming on like a tightly coiled ball of energy, Icebird have managed the difficult task of recording their (no doubt) live intensity in a studio setting. Their debut album “ Magnitude” sounds like a down and out Dinosaur JR sharing a bottle with Shellac and the wipers, the whole album crackling with noise; a non stop avalanche of bass heavy riffs, chaotic guitar and powerful drumming, that rattles around your brain in joyous abandon. You may have heard it before but rarely is it done so honestly, a band worth tracking down. - Terrascope UK


Icebird are among the new wave of young groups who draw their influences from a time when people were more willing to say what they mean and just plain rock out. If you're a fan of The Stooges, Sonic Youth or The Pixies this is highly recommend to you! - Impact Press


f they gave awards for song titles, I'd nominate Icebird for their "The Clap, The Burn, The End." This garage trio from LA gives a down and dirty tour of the rock gutter on their debut LP. Led by the tall, thin, hairy and beardy Monahan brothers, Barry and Mike, who sandwich drummer Kate Wise. The Icebird sound is powered by note-based noise and underground song structures. Forget chord patterns, this is more sinister and loose, like The Fall, Mudhoney and something obscure like... Flesheaters. Clearly they're influenced by the outsider indie bands of the late 70s and early 80s, as well as protopunk like Stooges. On "The Starting Line," a simple propulsive beat allows some room in the song, space for Barry to get a little weirded out with tortured vocals and a monotone bass line.

Throughout, the guitars are abrasive and on the offense, the songs are unwelcoming and aggressive - the way underground rock used to be and should be again.

Many of the leads and guitar-bass interplay sound almost goth, like a garage version of Bauhaus (think of "In The Flat Field"), but faster and without the pretense. There's a song here called "Birthday Party," and that should be a clue as to part of their ancestry, although nowhere near as self-aware. This is gritty, underground noise. - Culture Bunker


Discography

"Going at it" - Check One Two Show on Indie 103.1 and KXLU

'Magnitude' LP, 2005 - National College Airplay
"The clap the burn the end" Radio and Streaming Airplay
"Birthday Party" Radio and Streaming Airplay
"ABABA BABABA" Radio and Streaming Airplay
"Ohio" Radio and Streaming Airplay

Photos

Bio

Icebird began as the dream of two friends, Barry Monahan and Kate Wise, to form a band. The idea was that the two felt that there was something missing and that they could give something back to music, a love letter to an art that had given both of them so much. Both of them were also inspired and encouraged by the music of Kate’s brother’s band in New York. The idea was simple, but it wasn’t easy. At the time, having flunked guitar class twice, Monahan’s guitarmanship was rudimentary at best, and with the exception of singing Danzig’s “Mother” in the shower, he’d never sung before. They soon settled on a name the name Icebird and Barry convinced his brother Mike Monahan to move from New York to Los Angeles, pick up a bass and join the band. The younger Monahan brought a renewed sense of urgency to the band and a preternatural “brother rhythm” that completed the band. Shows were booked, and a record had to be made. That album was Magnitude, a break-up album recorded in a friend’s garage in under 72 hours. “It was definitely a crash course in recording,” says Mike “We were making this really aggressive stuff and we were left scratching our heads trying to figure out how to make it sound heavier.” “We wanted to make a punk rock album and that’s very much what we made,” notes Kate. The album was critically lauded for it’s gloss-less diamond in the rough appeal. The band was compared to everyone from Sonic Youth to the Meat Puppets and from Dinosaur Jr to Unwound to Nirvana. What began as a whim landed them on hallowed ground, and it blew them away. They were winning recognition and fans at home and away.

On the soon-to-be-released Championship Bloodline, their new 5 song EP, the ‘Bird displays development in every direction: as musicians, as songwriters, as arrangers and as singers. Recording took place at New Monkey Studio, a top-notch studio built and made (in)famous by it’s previous owner, the notoriously gear-minded Elliott Smith. In five days, their songs were locked into the round warmth of two inch tape by Dave Drake, of Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs, who was coaxed into wearing a raccoon hat for the entirety of the recording. The band also found joy in red-lining ridiculously powerful home-made guitars. As on Magnitude, the diversity of the material defies any categorization but one. Simply put, this is rock.