At the outset, Bohling manages to summarize the pervasive feeling of Icky Blossoms-- "Play it cool/ While fevered." "Heat Lightning" and "I Am" are respective showcases for the vocals of Bohling and Pressnall, both of whom sound ready to pounce if they could just get out of their own heads. Bohling sings "I don't want to be afraid/ I want to take you home" on the former, an inversion of the slow-burning and confident sexuality typified by her style of deadpan emoting. Meanwhile, amidst tic-laden, jerky dance-rock that bears a strong resemblance to several Dear Science cuts, Pressnall yelps "I'm not a game/ I'm no special prize/ I'm me and I am who I say I am," as a strangely affecting sales pitch. They're auspicious for sure and melodically immediate, but in all fairness, it's due in part to unshakable resemblances to Bloc Party's "Banquet" and, um, Pearl Jam's "Do the Evolution".
And yet, those don't sound like the "singles" in the manner "Sex to the Devil" and "Babes" do, as those stand out largely due to their monomaniacal stylistic devotion. Which is to say that a cynic's outlook on Icky Blossoms might view it less of a showcase of Pressnall and Bohling's songwriting chops and more of a referendum on electroclash, of whether it was worthy in the first place and/or whether it's due for a revial. In TaTW, the songs were about sex, these ones are often about the concept of being sexy and given to the more traditionally alluring vocals of Bohling. This is altogether reasonable, and in a way that's charming to the subgenre: The more portentous the duo's lyrics are, the more meaningless they sound amidst the rigid beats and frigid synth buzz.
Thing is, hard as they try, Icky Blossoms never convincingly embody a truly elegant wastefulness. You think back to the electroclash elite and it was bands like Fischerspooner and Ladytron, painfully cool, annoyingly urban-- they barely sounded human, let alone like people who did mundane bullshit like second vocal takes or going to Guitar Center to buy strings. Icky Blossoms still mostly sound like a band rather than mannequins, which is something of a mixed blessing. For all its tears-in-your-PBR stereotypes, Saddle Creek has always maintained a relationship with synth music and charmingly approach it as outsiders. Whether it's the Faint's thrift-store new wave, the lush and introverted Now It's Overhead, or the paranoid narcosis of Bright Eyes' electro one-off Digital Ash in a Digital Urn, those records never sounded overly polished or expensive.
Even with Sitek aboard, that's the case with Icky Blossoms. The production is simultaneously slick, yet standoffish, like there was a "Premium Package" the band didn't spring for. The deeper Icky Blossoms get into pastiche, the easier it is to focus on how they violate the dress code: "Cycle" and "Stark Weather" could pass for perfectly fine Kill For Love demos untouched by Johnny Jewel's expert retromania, looking the part by skulking under streetlights but doing little to create an atmosphere of impending danger or insatiable longing. On the opposite end, "Burn Rubber" and "Temporary Freakout" are in the right borough seeking guidance for their turn-of-the-millennium dance-punk, but they're asking for some DFA grit as opposed to TVOTR gloss.
So while the band comprises veterans, it's worth remembering Icky Blossoms is still a debut. That point is driven home by the appropriately-titled closer "Perfect Vision", the moment where the past and present of Icky Blossoms' personnel dovetail towards an individual perspective. A woozy, six-minute duet cruising at a pace no quicker than a backhand moving across a sweaty brow, Pressnall and Bohling kick back as boredom sets in, bicycles spin all over town, and "there's nothing to do but get high in the afternoon." It's the most in-tune the two sound with each other on Icky Blossoms and the most potent unification of sound and emotion as well. It'd be too easy to posit Icky Blossoms as a mid-career diversion for Pressnall, to consider the band latecomers or hayseed interlopers to a sound NYC hasn't had much use for in a while. And perhaps it's unfair to hold them to the standards of their urban peers when "Perfect Vision" suggests Icky Blossoms might be more suited for wasteful afternoons than a wasted evening.
LP / CD / MP3
LP / Deluxe LP / CD / MP3