Incurable Contact

Icos

Mad Cap/ Slipdisc Records, 1997

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icon_(band)

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/20/1997

I normally don't like to read bios that come with discs I'm sent to reviews -- that is, until after I've listened to the album. I don't like to take the chance of unconsciously biasing myself for or against an album from what I read.

But when I got the press kit for Chicago band Icos, I had to take a look -- especially because their press photo was color, not black and white. Sure enough, the bio sang the praises of this band and how musically inclusive they were.

I hate it when someone tells me what I'm going to think of a band. Worse yet, I hate it more when they are right. Icos's debut album, Incurable Contact, is a tasty slab of funk-pop with a bit of agnosticism thrown in for good measure.

Lead vocalist/guitarist Danny McGuinness is a deep thinker - you can tell that from the lyrics for the eleven songs on this disc. He also has the pipes powerful enough to deliver the goods in a convincing manner. Lead guitarist Scott Bond controls his instrument well; he knows the limits for a good guitar solo, and follows them. Drummer Kyle Woodring and bassist Jon Adler (who's since been replaced by Gordon Patriarca) put together a solid rhythm section that one-twos you into submission.

The opening track, "Standin' In The Middle," is a weird way for Icos to open this album. It's a decent enough job in the funk department, and it is a form of music they occasionally dip into on my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Incurable Contact, but for the most part this isn't a funk album, and the listener may be accidentally fooled into suspecting more of this style throughout the bulk of the album.

The first single, "Cities," is where McGuinness and crew show off their true power and colors. McGuinness's vocal on this one is superb, as is the band's performance. (Special attention should be called to the production hand of Wayne Gilpin, who captured the essence of this band. He should know them well -- he is one of the band's managers as well.)

The true power of Icos lies on the track "Firewalker"; the amalgam of solid performance, intense vocal and catchy chorus all point to potential hit single material.If I were an advisor to the band (and I'm not), I'd encourage them to release this one and promote the bejeezus out of it, and if I were a program director of a radio station (which I'm not), I'd put this in heavy rotation.

Of course, McGuinness shows the signs of being a deep thinker in his questioning of religious beliefs ("Jesus Christ, you're just another man / Buddha cries you're just another man" from "Live On", "God hasn't been around for years / He died laughing at the people who live in fear" from "Go"). It's a brave step, and I'm not one to judge someone else on their beliefs (unless you really believe that the pretty-boys from Milli Vanilli actually sang on that album... but I digress), but this may be a little too heavy for the casual listener. Even I kind of got tired of hearing him ramble on about the subject. (For that matter, after ten intelligent songs, were the obscenities on "Go" really necessary? I'm no prude, but it did kind of spoil the moment for me. I also admit to a bit of hypocrisy here - seeing how much I love Tool, who make no secrets about their beliefs.)

If I had any complaints about Incurable Contact, there would only be two. First, while I can respect McGuinness's wanting to make a point in some songs, state your case, then move on to the next topic. (The whole condemnation of religion falls under this category.) Second, at around 37 minutes, this album is a tad too short. I would have preferred a few more cuts to flesh it out -- or at least maybe a little instrumental development on a track or two for good measure.

Will radio take a chance on Icos and give some deserved attention to Incurable Contact? Sadly, I think the answer is "no". Too bad -- while Icos will no doubt gain a strong following in Chicago, they deserve a chance to be noticed amongst the hit makers of today. But I don't think that Icos will be a hidden secret for long - not with songwriting and performances this strong.

Incurable Contact is a very good first step. With a little more seasoning, McGuinness and crew should earn a shot in the spotlight in no time at all.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 1997 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Mad Cap/ Slipdisc Records, and is used for informational purposes only.