The Icicle Works were a one-hit wonder here in the United States. Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream) charted to the number 37 position in 1984 before the group disappeared from our eyes. Part of that disappearance was caused by their 1985 sophomore album The Small Price of a Bicycle which was dismissed by their stateside label Arista as “punk rock demos.” I’m not sure what the execs at Arista were smoking since I hear very little punk rock here. Instead, the listener is treated with a big bombastic sound that is closer to classic Simple Minds, non-Eno Roxy Music, Echo and the Bunnymen or even U2.
There are two stand-out tracks here, Hollow Horse and Seven Horses, but the album as a whole is remarkably consistent. Ian McNabb's songwriting is especially satisfying with meaningful lyrics (well, at least meaningful to me!). The quality of the drumming underpins the entire album, subtly adding to the ebb and flow of this dramatic music.
When I first listened to this album, my jaw literally dropped. I completely missed out on these guys back in the 1980s – at the time I was more interested in the Sex Pistols – and I felt as if a small fracture in my brain had been permanently fixed. It’s a rare album that can elicit that kind of response from me. Check out the YouTube video below and then go ahead and buy the album. You won’t be disappointed.