MP3 of the Week: “Promise To Stay” by The Icy Poles

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The Icy Poles are possibly my favourite Melbourne band.  I think of them as the polar opposite of Beaches. They’re not cool. They’re actually slightly demented, juvenile, almost pitiable in their sincerity. You’ll never see them posing in an alleyway in Fitzroy looking tough or strung-out. They’ve got no class. They write songs about each other and about boys not liking them.

But it’s this unselfconscious lameness that sets them apart. Their songs bounce along, full of old-fashioned hooks, full of bubblegum bass and drums, with simple, heartfelt lyrics that are clever as child’s play.

But they keep a fairly low profile. Having released a tape a couple years ago, then having lost the box of tapes somewhere in Melbourne, there hasn’t been much to fulfil the needs of the average Icy Poles fan.

“Promise To Stay”, the debut single from their recently pressed 7inch, makes good on those lost tapes, offering a slightly more produced (but still lo-fi) addition to their strange and spare back-catalogue.

As if coming from the back of an empty blue light disco, the guitar introduces the doo-wop theme before Isobel Knowles’ sad-eyed vocal comes in:

“When I saw you on the dance-floor / thought that you were the one for sure / now you say that you’re going away / “he says that leaving her” / and I can’t see you NO MORE”

The “no more” is sort of unexpected how it jumps out, belting heartbroken in an otherwise breathy vocal rendition.

Every instrument clicks together so well, like The Shaggs from another dimension where they could all play in time. Surprisingly, it’s the simplicity of the drums that provide the song with some of its most resonant moments. The funny, childlike drum fill (te-te, du-du) is one of the best I’ve ever heard.

But my favourite drum effect, and one that shows the thought put into this song, is the timpani thunder-effect that strikes when the singer suspects a lie. You can see her crumbling as the drum foreshadows her heartbreak, an amazing effect that adds to the song subtly and immeasurably.

While “Promise To Stay” is definitely an homage to 1950s breakup-waltzes, it never seems overly anachronistic. There’s a real sincerity here that bypasses the “retro” tag. It actually fits quite nicely into that category of classy 50s inspired art, the airy guitar hum filling out the song and cementing the David Lynch vibe.

I hate to mention that these guys are all girls. I guess it’s still out of the ordinary to see all-girl bands, which is a real shame. Listening to The Icy Poles I really feel this is something I’m not used to, the girly-ness of it. But it’s great, it’s exciting and it’s daggy. They talk about boys like they’re waiting for one to climb through their bedroom window. There’s not enough of this kind of music around. Where are the Millie Smalls of our generation?

Speaking of retro, these guys must be the only band still using Myspace. Those were the days. It was simpler back then. Anyway, have a geez.

The Icy Poles are launching their 7″ at the Grace Darling (114 Smith St, Collingwood) on 11th September.

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