Punk Records 001: No Hope For The Kids Is Better Than IceageBy Ben Parker
Punk Records is a new column by Ben Parker, formerly the author of the zines "Voices Wake Us..." and "War on Wankers." Ben currently writes the blogs punkrecords and payingattentiontometal. This column is intended as a kind of rolling mix-tape: the equivalent of going over to a friend's house and having them pull out a bunch of newly-acquired singles.
If you read popular music blogs, you've probably got an opinion on Iceage, the underage Danish punk band currently making the rounds. In the eyes of many, that band's success is the sequel to an earlier wave of Danish punk that hit US shores in the early aughts. Coming out of Copenhagen and centered around Kick 'n Punch Records, bands like Young Wasteners, Gorilla Angreb, Hul, and Amdi Petersens Armé were young, good-looking kids explicitly intimating American punk sounds of the 1980s, with an inscrutable cool that belied their subsistence on funding from the Danish state.
These bands were outrageously hyped at the time, ushering in an era where the only possible positive review was, "When the needle hits the wax, you'll swear you were listening to a record from 1981!" Needless to say, much of this music has not held up to the scrutiny of posterity: scrupulous reproductions of an earlier style rarely outlive their own moment.
One band that still sounds great, however, is No Hope for the Kids, who released two singles and an LP from 2003-06. Both singles are compiled in the video below.
It's true here, too, that "You'll swear you were listening to outtakes by the Adolescents!"--but this authenticity is accompanied by the characteristic simplistic politics and studied mannerisms we have come to expect from Scandinavian punk dating back to the days of Refused. There's no risk here of the inane frothiness of the Adolescents' "Amoeba," nor the somber majesty of their "Kids of the Black Hole." Instead, No Hope for the Kids is either obsessed with fascistic politics (on their first single), or smothered by first-world pre-apocalyptic malaise (second single). While the Adolescents stared at the surreal meaninglessness of Orange County and mirrored back its implicit nihilism, No Hope For the Kids is simply playing at being "old souls."
However, what was pretentious and too-clever at the time now seems charmingly misguided, even while no one today is likely to focus on the band's sonic authenticity. Like Dorian Gray, with each passing year new cracks appear in the imitation. What remains is a quartet of catchy, intricate pop-punk songs... timeless, perhaps, but markedly of their own era. My favorite is "Secret Police," which is not without certain qualities of musical theater: the structure of a dramatic monologue with lyrics "echoed" by (I presume) the "bad cop" on hand at the interrogation. Just because the band takes this all very seriously doesn't mean I can't find it to be a goofy masterpiece of tuneful punk.
Read more of Ben's smarty-pants punk reviews at his blog.