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2023 Albums Thing 170 - The Icicle Works “If You Want To Defeat Your Enemy…Sing His Song”

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Probably my favourite Icicle Works album. I remember hearing the single “Understanding Jane” on the radio and being knocked out by it. On hearing “Evangeline” a few months later I was sold.

Ian Broudie (you remember him, right ?) was bought in to produce. This lead to the overall sound of the record not being as clean as their first 2 albums, if I’m to be kind the whole record is kinda muddy. BUT…and as you can see it’s a big but…the songs more than make up for the mud. There’s a clutch of great pop songs, the almost folky “Travelling Chest”, and “Who Do You Want For Your Love”. We have the two already mentioned singles both coming on like some punky garage band sometime between ‘67 and ‘77. McNabb uses that rich voice to great effect on a bunch of songs I can always hear Scott Walker singing, “Hope Springs Eternal”, “When You Were Mine” and “Walking With A Mountain” (the latter is not a cover of the Mott The Hoople song BTW).

And then sitting innocuously toward the end of side 1 there is the epic “Up Here In The North Of England”. You know McNabb is serious as the slightly unnerving guitar riff begins and is soon joined by a deep booming noise (strings or synths, I don’t know what it is) that sounds like the ships horns of old out on a foggy Mersey river. McNabb then delivers a lyric addressing drugs, Lennon, Cold War paranoia, football hooliganism, fast food, TV comedians stereotypical Scouser jokes, all wrapped up by the lyric

The southerners don't like us, Who can blame 'em seems we're always in the spotlight

“Understanding Jane” and “Evangeline” were minor hits (#52 and #53 respectively) but the Icicle Works never achieved the success their records deserved. They made 2 more albums (“Blind”, featuring the fantastic “Starry Blue Eyed Wonder”, and “Permanent Damage”) and split in 1991. Ian McNabb is still recording and touring and occasionally making great music but the Icicle Works should have got more than they did from this business some call music.

Up Here In The North Of England - https://youtu.be/ArFjrliRmSw?si=5740zsMCorS80KR_

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