Author: Chrysta Cherrie
Omaha, Nebraska indie label Saddle Creek built its reputation in the early '90s on the melancholy songcraft of Bright Eyes and angular post-rock of Cursive, soon expanding its sound with the addition of the new wave-inspired, sexually charged the Faint (and spinoff project Broken Spindles) to its roster, a theme revisited by Icky Blossoms. On the trio's self-titled debut produced by Dave Sitek (TV on the Radio), singer/synth player Sarah Boling and singer/multi-instrumentalists Derek Pressnall (Flowers Forever and labelmates Tilly and the Wall) and Nik Fackler share their take on electro-influenced music, delivering a combination of brooding synthesizers, danceable drums, and self-assured melodies to shape their dance-pop sound. While the Faint zoned in on dark rhythms and decadent lyrics, Icky Blossoms take a looser approach, flowing from stripped-down, arpeggiated synth rock (opener "Heat Lightning") to hypnotic, jagged beats ("Burn Rubber") to slow-burning indie rock sprinkled with icy electronic accents ("Stark Weather," loosely inspired by the Nebraskan teenager serial killer Charles Starkweather). The band conjures a sensuous dance party on "Sex to the Devil," whose ominous synth lines combine with the chorus ("Church to god/God to the universe/The universe to art/Art to drugs/Drugs to sex/Sex to the devil") for mantra-like results. Meanwhile, "Babes," with its house-infused beats and lyrics that laud leather-clad ladies and cool club chicks, has the ingredients to accompany a runway show. But the band may have saved the best for last with closer "Perfect Vision," a murky snapshot of friends spending a boring, cloudy afternoon together that dreamily oozes to the six-and-a-half-minute mark with a soundtrack of droning guitar, shadowy co-ed vocals, and distorted trumpets. Icky Blossoms succeed in showing many different sides of dance-infused indie rock with their debut, but there's an unsettled feeling that suggests the trio members weren't entirely sure where they wanted to go with the record. With a more clearly defined musical direction, like the Faint before them, they'd sound more fully committed.