The First Step and Icepick…
Posted on Monday, June 12th, 2006 @ 9:30am » permalink
The First Step is from North Carolina and plays straightforward old school hardcore with no frills. The kids seem to eat this shit up and I guess that's because this band seems to be one of the few out there right now that literally follows the late-80's "youth crew" sort of straightedge aesthetic almost 100%, right down to their album layouts. They're not the most productive band on earth in terms of recorded output, but "What We Know" is their long-awaited debut "full-length" (though it offers up 12 tracks in only 19-and-a-half minutes) on Rivalry Records. Only one track hits two minutes, otherwise everything is short and to the point midpaced to moderately fast three-chord styled hardcore with token breaks and shouting vocals – nothing over the top and absolutely no metal. This is the kind of hardcore that's conducive to fingerpointing and pile-on sing-alongs, you know what I mean?
I'd say there's a little bit of a weird recording on this one (the "boxy" snap to the snare damn sure took me some getting used to), but the overall warmth carries it through, and I definitely feel like the songwriting on this effort is more diverse and energetic than the band's past material. Of course, when it comes to such traditionally based hardcore words like "diverse" only go so far, but The First Step is one of those bands that has a very distinct vision of what their sound entails, so that's what you can expect them to deliver. And hey, they do it right and come across as sincere, so I see nothing wrong with looking to the past under those circumstances.
The First Step "Get Wise"
The First Step "No Good Reason"
I know that a lot of people who are way into this form of hardcore are also big time vinyl junkies, and this one's available on vinyl as well if that's your thing. So pick it up if your ears never tire of "those days, those fuckin' days…":
@ Rivalry Records
@ Very Distribution
This one came out about a year ago, but I only recently grabbed it and the band seems to be being slept on in the US, so I figured I'd go ahead and write it up. "Goldrush" is the debut EP from Icepick (not the band with Jamey Jasta and Ezec, this is the Icepick from The Netherlands) on Not Just Words Records, which is coincidentally the label that just released The First Step's "What We Know" LP in Europe. I've mentioned in the past that some of these European bands have done a pretty damn good job of channeling an oddly intriguing take on a Cro-Mags kind of feel that's neither "retro" hardcore nor particularly metallic (though there are a couple of quick solos here). As a result, these guys in particular remind me quite a bit of True Blue, who were among the best of this style (which they admittedly probably pioneered in Europe). It might help to add some beefiness to the rhythm guitars, but the mix is even and clear, and for the most part they've got a nice and crispy recording with a great bass tone. The vocals can get a little weird sometimes, there's a little bit of a strain in the delivery on occasion, but once you get used to it that's not really an issue… and I certainly haven't encountered many vocalists that sound like this dude! From a songwriting standpoint Icepick stays just barely ahead of the common pitfall of sticking with too much of a consistently midpaced tempo, so even though the drummer does seem to rely on pretty much the same patterns throughout, the overall pace varies just enough to keep things moving along with the riffing changes. More speed wouldn't hurt, but they're on the right track. This is a strong start and I'm very curious to see where the band heads in the future, so hopefully they'll stick around longer than True Blue did in their day.
Icepick "This Time"
This one's probably not that easy to come by in the US, but it's still in stock for the damn fine price of just $7 at Surprise Attack's webstore, so grab it if you're into it:
@ Surprise Attack Records