New Brigade is an album I return to infrequently, savoring the flavor of every bite, irrationally concerned that it will lose its impact. In a decade, it never has, which is enough for me to label it a modern classic, but others may only be convinced when considering its legacy: without question, New Brigade brought punk conversation in a space it had been dormant in for some time (though they, themselves, are notoriously curt interviews): college radio hosts and music writers, those who spent the previous decade swooning over Vampire Weekend, Grizzly Bear, and Animal Collective, found themselves looking toward the beer-stained underground—just so slightly, a quick toe-dip, not a nose dive—and listeners followed. And unlike albums made by those artists, New Brigade doesn’t sound painfully 2011.


I wonder, too, if some of the speed in which Iceage’s appeal proliferated was extramusical—bonus points atop an undeniable record. Live, the band is bewildering to watch, unblinking. They wore teenage scowls atop polos and bomber jackets, trench coats, button-down shirts, and white tees tucked into fitting jeans—a far cry from the leather punks so frequently associated with this kind of music. On more than one occasion, genre purists have labeled and dismissed the band as “pretty boy punk.” While I’d usually avoid such a superficial descriptor, I find it to be relevant. (And as the preeminent Iceage scholar Zachary Lipez brilliantly writes, “We’re not supposed to talk about attractiveness of bands anymore; presumably not until that game is no longer weaponized against the Boy Bands made up of ladies. But The Strokes wouldn’t have been the Strokes if they’d looked like Guided By Voices, and neither would Iceage.” I tend to agree.) At the very least, Iceage symbolized a new kind of punk: fervent and Herculean as all hell, prone to bloody, high octane pits, but dressed up in a softer, more accessible masculinity—at least for those unfamiliar with or intimidated by the music.*

*And by music, of course, I mean anarcho-punks and their fashion.


Ten years on, I question if New Brigade would’ve inspired the same sort of immediacy as it did during the time of its release, if it came out in 2021. Truth be told, I don’t think it could’ve existed the same way: the album cover, for one, is runic, and the band has long since been accused of flirting with fascist iconography, like so many post-punk and oi! bands (and dumb ass teenagers) before them. They’ve since denounced those behaviors and have vocalized support for the Black Lives Matter movement, expressing left wing viewpoints, which is more than I can say for the Ariel Pinks of the world. And for what it is worth, no questionable politics or god forbid, hate speech, make an appearance on the album. It was all an image, and that image no longer exists.

What remains is a killer record, one that undoubtedly shaped punk and indie rock for years to come, one that eventually lead to Iceage to signing with big indie label Matador, international acclaim, main stage festival sets, award nominations, a decade long career with endless sonic pivots, Nick Cave worship, and a slew of other new rock bands studying Rønnenfelt’s morose baritone: England’s Shame and Sweden’s Holograms come to mind. And when I need it, like I do today, I’ll put on New Brigade—to feel its particular transcendence once more.