It's been three years since the critically acclaimed Penance Soiree, and with guitarist and chief antagonist Aaron North jumping ship and joining Nine Inch Nails, the future looked a little uncertain for these pasty-faced punk-rockers from Hollywood. However, on Black Lives - the band's third album - the four-piece prove they're far from a spent force: they're still fuelled by negativity, still rolling with the punches and fighting musical tedium and, in lank-haired frontman Joe Cardamone, still in possession of one of the most intense and, simultaneously, nonchalant vocalists around. Cardamone draws on the experiences of his hometown - with which he seems to have a Bukowski-esque love/hate relationship - and twists them into something savage and beautiful, while his band play discordant trance-rock that straddles the great divide between the sleazy stomp of the Stooges and the sublime, jangly pop of the Stone Roses.
If you got into the Icarus Line through their first album, Mono, you're likely to be disappointed with this; the majority of the tracks are a long way from the chaotic, hardcore-punk rage the band displayed on that record. But this is one of the few bands you can genuinely say have never, ever been it for the popularity and on Black Lives... they're once again doing what they do best - making great music that ignores the fads and fashions of their peers.
One of my favourite records of 2007.