The cover of Garage Rock duo Ice Cream’s sophomore album FED UP features two arms locked in battle, one hand wrapped firmly over the other, casting shadows against a violet backdrop. The dominant hand, clawed with long, deep crimson nails, presents a complex femininity: threatening, ostentatious, dominant. It’s a gorgeous introduction to the Toronto duo’s follow-up to their 2016 debut Love, Ice Cream, and an early indication of the world Carlyn Bezic and Amanda Crist have created for the eagerly anticipated album. Following the lineage of Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney, Ice Cream’s Riot Grrrl snarl, cutting electric leads and acerbic lyrics are statements unto themselves. Over eight tracks, FED UP accomplishes the seemingly paradoxical feat of sounding at once familiar and experimental, sordid and danceable – think of the artistry of St. Vincent without the self-aware Art-Rock pretense.
FED UP is a supremely satisfying listen for both its concision and concept; at a lean, beautifully paced 33 minutes, Bezic and Crist channel the very sound of monotony and stale routine in an increasingly automated world. A kind of paranoia or suspicion of modernity pervades the album like the rattle and hum of a city bus; ever-present and unshakeable, infiltrating daydreams and clear thought. Album opener ‘Bun Roo’ introduces a sonically industrial world marked by droning bass synth, suffocating percussion, and metallic, stiff lead guitar. As layered and distorted vocals enter, an ironic and uncommitted rhythm guitar jabs away at robotic funk fills. It is a superbly actualized concept – instrumentation mirroring theme – that makes FED UP an engaging and world-building collection, recalling the anxiety of early Talking Heads and the European industrial desolation of Berlin-era Bowie.
‘Peanut Butter’ asserts itself as the early and obvious highlight with an infectious, though no less anguished bass line complemented by playful marimba and the seductively ambiguous lyric “you stick to the roof of my mouth / like peanut butter”. Title track ‘FED UP’ opens with what could be the album’s working mission statement: “I’ll gauge out all the eyes of kings / I want to be free” delivered with complete detachment over the undiscernible din of a crowd. Cleverly positioned at the album’s mid-point, the track is a heart beating to a singular impetus: this is a new age, unfit and without a place for human presence, and Ice Cream are helming the new order.
The sentiment is repeated on the slow burner ‘Modern Life’ with the refrain “feeling discontent cuz this modern life is choking me to death / one hundred percent.” The track is spacious and unnerving, an aesthetic descendant of Iggy Pop’s The Idiot and no less dazzling. This is the strength of FED UP: Ice Cream wave the flags of their influences, be it Riot Grrrl, Post-Punk, or seductive New Wave, as on the Prince-inspired closer ‘0.22.’ Despite this lineage, and perhaps because of it, FED UP showcases the duo’s uncanny knack for making the old new and exciting again, a decayed and automated utopia wheezing out its final triumph.