The Icicle Works – If You Want To Defeat Your Enemy Sing His Song

I’m doing things out of order again, as I really should be reviewing an earlier release before this one, but you know what? I don’t care. It’s my site and I’ll do things in any old order that pleases me. So there, etc.

I’ve babbled on at great length before about Ian McNabb and his band the Icicle Works, and I’m going to do it again. This is the freshly released, remastered and quite wonderfully extended version of the Icies’ third album, which was first released in 1987. It’s my personal favourite of their studio albums, although it doesn’t contain my absolute favourite song by the band (you’ll have to wait for the overdue review of The Small Price of a Bicycle for that, but it’s got loads more to enjoy, and it’s the album where Ian’s voice and the music work together to their best advantage, thanks in part to a damn fine production job by Ian Broudie.

This reissue from Cherry Red records includes no less than three CDs – the first is the original album, with a crisp, clear and (to my ears) pretty damn good remastering job. It doesn’t contain the extra tracks that were added to the original CD – just the ten tracks which I’ll come to shortly. The second disc is, quite frankly, a gem. A quite substantial seventeen tracks, including B-sides, demos, alternative versions, and other bits. Some of these have been available before – a couple were on the original CD of the album, some were on the Best Kept Secrets CD that came with early copies of the Icies’ Best Of quite some years ago, and others are somewhat rarer. There’s a particularly nice acoustic version of Sweet Thursday, with more strings than seems reasonable, but which somehow works, and perhaps even improves on the usual version. I’ll let you know when I’ve heard it a couple more times. If I remember. And finally, there’s a live CD recorded at London’s Town and Country Club in July 1986, which includes a good selection of the band’s material up to that point, with the expected focus on the then current album. That’s the one I’m going on about here, you know.

Anyway, on to the actual album. Highlights for me include Sweet Thursday, a song which lodged deep in my brain a long time ago, and has shown no inclination to leave.

When sweet Thursday comes
all you know will have changed
The rains will pour down
On the heartache you’ve found
May you never be lonely again

At twenty-four you thought you’d have it all
Now your will won’t work at all
Ten years pass you by so quickly
When all your friends have left you standing still
And you can’t recall the thrill
Of being wanted by another

Then there’s Evangeline, a glorious, wonderful, soaring masterpiece that’s an actual bloody vanishing hitchhiker story. There’s the slightly bonkers and distinctly rockist Understanding Jane, the deeply passionate and lovely Who Do You Want For Your Love?, and the superb Up Here In The North Of England, an honest look at the state of Ian’s home city of Liverpool in the depths of Thatcher’s Britain.

Somehow, all this quite wonderful stuff didn’t translate into hits. While the album got to the lower reaches of the top 30 on its release, none of the singles got above 50, despite some radio play. But for me, this is one of the Best Albums Ever, and one I’ve returned to over and over again. I was very happy to see this extended release, and I hope that maybe some more people will learn to love the Icicle Works.

One thought on “The Icicle Works – If You Want To Defeat Your Enemy Sing His Song

  1. Paul Summers

    Hi Les. Enjoyed the review of this album. Wrote one myself on the ebay site.

    Stick ‘NorthernCitrusParrot’ in search on youtube and you’ll see a video i’ve just uploaded for ‘Sweet Thursday’.

    Best Wishes.

Comments are closed.