Among the certified classics - the ‘Silent Alarm’s and the ‘Fever to Tell’s of this world - there are smaller names still worthy of a place in DIY’s hallowed Hall of Fame. The instant nostalgia, their ongoing influence, and the emotional welly they triggered in their listeners means their stories are no less important. Test Icicles’ singular LP ‘For Screening Purposes Only’ falls into this category. It’s a wild and thrashy listen, but due to the band’s short life-span, it hasn’t seen the acclaim it really deserves. It was a sound of a band throwing everything into an album without any second thought as to how it all fits together. In years to come, the polar musical pathways that came out of the band only made the story weirder.
Test Icicles began way back in 2004, formed by mutual friends, and going under the equally puerile moniker ‘Balls’. In an interview with Pop Matters, Dev Hynes explained that signing to any record label – let alone Domino – was never the intention. “We didn’t hand out demos to anyone. Ever. We just played songs and put them online so our friends could hear them,” he said. “We were playing live every few weeks if friends asked us to.” Domino then signed them after only hearing two songs from a Myspace profile, and later in 2005, the band went off to France with Simian Mobile Disco’s James Ford to record ‘For Screening Purposes Only’.
The dance-punk of the mid 00s may fondly be remembered as an anomaly that involved spiky guitars, disco beat drums and maybe the odd Erol Alkan remix as a B-side. Test Icicles leaned towards the heavier end of things. ‘For Screening Purposes Only’ was patched up in programmed drums; drenched in cheap distortion with a pink and blue sugary aggression that their peers never sonically possessed. Most importantly, it was fun to the core. Each track was written individually and ordered abrasively, with the finished song only shown to the other band members once it was completed. The result is a forty-minute mesh of ideas; varying B-movie horrors and tinny headaches. ‘Circle Square Triangle’ and ‘What’s Your Damage?’ are bratty chunks of punk rock that soundtracked indie nights like London’s now-closed night Afterskool, right up to their culmination.
‘For Screening Purposes Only’ was patched up in programmed drums; drenched in cheap distortion with a pink and blue sugary aggression that their peers never sonically possessed.
Test Icicles’ two year lifespan concluded with a reserved and coy break-up note about never really liking the music they made. The band would never be anything more than a snapshot of its time. There wouldn’t be any wild change or second dimension to their sound; their back-to-basics live set up of guitar and vocal duties shared over an iPod backing track wasn’t going to be refined or developed. Test Icicles was never meant to be taken too seriously, and this was a feeling the members themselves shared. A handful of conversations with journalists from the time pointed fun at any interviewer that had made it through the entire record, citing it as ‘far too intense’ to be given a full listen.
The band has been more or less been erased from Dev Hynes’ history now. He went on to record two albums under his Lightspeed Champion moniker before gaining worldwide success as a songwriter for pop’s golden list of Carly Rae Jepsen, Kylie Minogue and Solange, and his increasingly collaborative R&B project Blood Orange. Rory Attwell had a small number of releases as part of RAT:ATT:AGG before finding a home with his solo Warm Brains project. Sam Mehran and Dev have worked together on a few other projects since, and Mehran has also released music as Outer Limits Recordings.
‘For Screening Purposes Only’ was a gateway for many in finding out about discordant post-hardcore bands like The Blood Brothers, Dananananakroyd and Daughters through message boards and file sharing sites. Though they were a short-lived affair Test Icicles were a remedy to a lack of eclectism at the time, hitting on a new dynamite energy between the two camps of rock and indie.
For all the rest of DIY’s Hall of Fame coverage, head here.