I purchased the first, eponymous Icicle Works album among my clutch of first records between 1983 and 1985 as I was belatedly forming my collection and constructing a semblance of a personality in my late teens before heading to university. I kind of knew it wasn't quite as credible as other contemporary things I was buying at round about the same time of a similar bent like The Smiths, R.E.M., Aztec Camera and Lloyd Cole & the Commotions.
It was really trying too hard, aiming unashamedly for the peaks achieved by fellow Liverpudlians the Bunnymen and the Teardrop Explodes. Lead singer and songwriter Ian McNabb had clearly been inspired by their example but his songs were rather kitchen sink-ish in their construction and approach and his lyrics stretching too hard for the Bunnymen's Ian McCulloch's poetic resonance but insisting on dotting all the 'i's and crossing all the 't's. I don't listen to it now although it contains a number of chunky, melodic, evocative songs It's too much a thing of youth. Specifically, the sixth form.
But I would stick by at least four of its tracks, which I've posted here. Here McNabb, projects his rich, Scott Walker inspired voice wonderfully and the band gel to create that mighty, dynamic brew that seems particular to three-piece rock bands. I haven't chosen Love is a Wonderful Colour, their sole, big British hit, (which to me is rather cloying), but Birds Fly most of all, which remarkably hit the American Top 40 at a time when very few British guitar bands were making any such inroads. I think this is their best song and I've also put up a handful more to keep it company. The Icicle Works fell a little short overall of their vaulted ambitions, but there are definite moments on this first record where they capture the giddy happy moment of being sixteen, perhaps in love for the first time, and knowing that all life lies before you. And that's an achievement!