I’d literally never heard of Icon for Hire before today. I doubt many people have, though, judging by the confused expression you had on your face when you clicked on this link out of a unique blend of boredom and morbid curiosity. Having said that, they did release an album in 2011 that hit the Billboard 200, so they obviously have a following. With that in mind, let’s check out their new self-titled album.
Well bugger me with a fish fork. This is actually pretty good. I had every expectation that this would be another band to throw on the pile, but Icon for Hire is a good album. Better than good, actually! At first glance, it’s just another Paramore ripoff, but you examine the songs closer and you notice that it’s actually a blend of pop-punk, hard rock, post-hardcore and electronica. Sounds like it should be a disjointed mess, and by all rights, it should be. That’s totally not the case, though.
Look, I’m a huge metalhead. I’m the kind of guy who listens to Jack’s Mannequin and thinks, “Yeah, this is great and all, but could we add double kick?” It takes something special to make me look up from my down-tuned guitar riffs and blast beats, but this is just such an album. Frontwoman Ariel is a freak. Her voice is crisp, clean and capable of soaring into powerful crescendos before instantaneously switching to a delicate, lilting tone. She can also rap, which is just tremendous.
The rest of the band is also very good at what they do. They’re tight and talented and they play some of the tastiest melodies this side of Biffy Clyro. They also know that Ariel is their biggest asset and they let her have the limelight, merely adding subtle nuances and flourishes here and there that accentuate her performance while making themselves known.
What in particular, though, makes this album so good? I’m glad you asked that question, theoretical figment of my imagination! The answer is that this album does what so many fail to accomplish: it appropriates ludicrous amounts of elements from different genres and utilises them effectively. The electronica isn’t overpowering, yet it isn’t indistinguishable. The rapping isn’t overdone, nor is it merely a gimmick used on one track. Opener “Cynics and Critics” even has a djenty breakdown, and at no point does any of this seem contrived or merely put there for the hell of it. Everything about this thing serves a purpose, and I love it to death.
I’m trying to think of something they’ve done wrong here, but I honestly can’t think of anything. I guess they don’t really reinvent the wheel, because there’s plenty of bands doing all these things and more, so I should probably mark them down for that. Some of the songs can also drag a little and be a little predictable, like a slow-burning march “Pop Culture”, but if an album’s biggest faults could also be interpreted as ‘diverse and yet accessible’, then it can’t be too bad.
Look, it’s like this: if you want a borderline impenetrable masterpiece, go listen to Lateralus by Tool. If you want a tonne of fun (check that assonance, bitches!), listen to Icon for Hire.