Test Icicles - For Screening Purposes Only

by James Briscoe Rating: Release Date:2005-10-31

The Test Icicles - a one-album band. They only had one test icicle. You could say that, like their album, they were also for screening purposes only. Enough with the puns already. The Test Icicles seemed to leave the scene as soon as their lyrics had dried on the page. In fact, they were gone before a lot of their fans even realised they existed.

When you first see the wonderful name of this band, you have to find out more. A band so daring and clever have to be good, right? It is always impressive when a band comes along and has the balls to be so different. To offer something extraordinary is the holy grail of music, like inventing the iPod. Okay, Test Icicles were not quite as successful at the iPod but it is that uniqueness that we look for.

Test Icicles were part of the hipster scene that made skinny jeans fashionable again in Europe and made indie music even more 'alternative' than before. After Britpop had fizzled out, British music suffered at the hands of manufactured girl/ boy bands but bands like Test Icicles injected a much-needed dose of adrenaline.

The album, For Screening Purposes Only, took its name from the film Thicker Than Water, about two American drug dealers, where the phrase, "For screening purposes only" is shown before every violent occurrence in the film. Violence is not a theme that is foreign to this record... and I like it. The lyrics and their delivery by Rory Attwel and Sam Mehran are visceral and exciting. There are 13 tunes on the album, including a hidden track called, 'What's Michelle Like?', so I will only comment on the most memorable ones. The opening track on the album is 'Your Biggest Mistake' and opens with the line, "Go! The deepest cut", which introduces the violent aspect of the album. The rest of the song speaks of someone in a confused and threatened state but it is the way that Sam Mehran delivers his lines, with long-drawn-out vowels which allows his clawed words to reach out and stroke you vigorously.

Track five, 'Circle Square Triangle', makes me gasp and my mouth waters as soon as I hear the opening riff and the momentum of this wave of pleasure continues and increases throughout the song. The album was released on Halloween 2005 and this is reflected in the lyrics here, such as, "We could do with some more poison, and the end is hearing noises... Layers all exist within the beat, the shapes are moving all over the street". After years of hearing countless songs about romance, it is refreshing to hear these eerie words, enveloped in darkness.

Another example of a song that keeps you violently hooked until the final note is, 'All You Need Is Blood'. The success of this track owes mainly to its knife-sharp guitar riffs and tortured vocal delivery. Now, that description might sound like something horrendous to you and it is in the way that an awesome horror film is. It is delicious and engulfing.

There is so much to say about For Screening Purposes Only that I could write a short story about each of its songs, okay, not all of them are so accomplished; 'Pull The Lever' is relatively poor but the album takes you to another place where it is dark but the shadows are full of exciting and pleasuring secrets. Yes, it is dangerous, but what thrill-seeker does not want that? It could be said that it was inevitable that this had to be the Test Icicles' one and only album, because so much creativity and energy went in to it. How do you repeat such a vibrant piece and reproduce the newness that For Screening Purposes Only gave us? Guitarist, Dev Hynes has carried the Test Icicles torch with his delightful solo venture, Lightspeed Champion. It is, however, extremely sad that I will likely never see Test Icicles perform live. What I would give for a second album...

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