There is a saying “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck”. Icon For Hire started out in a garage and ended up signed to Tooth & Nail. Not long after their debut release ‘Scripted’ (2011), Ariel (vocals) lamented that their avid christian fans were chasing away other potential fans, leading critics to make further comparisons with Paramore and Evanescence. You can either take that as a cold commercial decision or alternatively look to Jon Foreman’s stance “For us, it’s a faith, not a genre, we’ve always been very open and honest about where the songs are coming from. For us, these songs are for everyone. Calling us ‘Christian rock’ tends to be a box that closes some people out and excludes them. And that’s not what we’re trying to do. Music has always opened my mind—and that’s what we want”.
For their self-titled 2013 album the line-up was Ariel Bloomer (lead vocals & keyboard), Shawn Jump (guitar, bass, backing vocals, programming, sampling, synthesizer), Josh Kincheloe (bass) and Adam Kronshagen (drums). Whilst ‘Scripted’ leant towards hard rock and pop-punk, their follow-up moves further into electronic pop.
They open with ‘Cynics & Critics’ which rages “We’re not cynics, we just don’t believe a word you say /
we’re not critics, we just hate it all anyway”. It has an electro intro before it heaps on thumping bass and slabs of guitar. Whereas ‘Nerves’ has a pop-rock approach. However, the rapping on ‘Sugar and Spice’ sees them trying to mix in on genre too many.
‘Hope of Morning’ is synth-led with electronic beats. It tells of the internal struggle to keep it together and features some of the strongest lyrical content as they blow away the froth. “Trade up made up epidemics, pass around prescription pills / But my disorder can’t be cured by a bottle, blade, or dose / Self-disgust and selfishness tend to hold me awfully close”. Whilst it tells you not to give in to negativity, it does not offer a way out.
The other stand-out tracks are ‘Sorry About Your Parents’ and ‘Rock and Roll Thugs’. The latter takes in a much used argument that hellfire preachers have thrown around since The Beatles took the world by storm. “And the preacher at church must’ve told you about them too / ‘Cause you came home dead set on what you had to do / You said the demons and drugs hide in rock n roll thugs / If I wanna grow up nice, I better give the music up”.
I suspect the band was still licking their wounds after the critical attention given to ‘Scripted’. Most critics have taken a dislike to their new album too, but it has flashes of brilliance.
Reviewed by Peter John Willoughby
1 Cynics & Critics
3 Sugar and Spice
4 Hope of Morning
5 Sorry About Your Parents
6 Pop Culture
7 Watch Me
8 Slow Down
9 Rock and Roll Thugs
10 Think I’m Sick
11 Fix Me
12 Counting On Hearts
Ariel – vocals
Shawn Jump – guitar
Adam Kronshagen – drums
“Icon For Hire” (2013)
Record Label: Tooth & Nail Records, Oct. 2013
Lyric video below ’Cynics & Critics’