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The Small Price of a Bicycle

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Album Review

There's actually nothing small about the Icicle Works' second album. Like early U2, Big Country, and Simple Minds, the Icicle Works paint with a large canvas; on The Small Price of a Bicycle, the Icicle Works don't stray from their formula of mammoth guitar riffs and epic choruses. While the LP doesn't have the bewitching wintry feel of the group's self-titled debut, Ian McNabb's husky voice compensates for the overall lack of immediate hooks. The galloping bass and sweeping vocals of "Hollow Horse" should've been as successful in the U.S. as the band's only American hit, "Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream)." "We'll be as we are/When all the fools who doubt us fade away," McNabb bellows defiantly on "Hollow Horse," lyrics that are as catchy as the "We are, we are/We are but your children" singalong of "Birds Fly." Filled with high drama and a ceaselessly driving beat, "Hollow Horse" nearly stomps the rest of the album into mashed potatoes. "Perambulator" exposes the Icicle Works' more aggressive side, one that McNabb would explore further on his Head Like a Rock LP, while "Seven Horses" is more of the same, McNabb's throaty voice riding on a wave of colossal guitars and thumping basslines. The Small Price of a Bicycle has its boring moments, such as "All the Daughters (Of Her Father's House)," but McNabb's passion breathes life into every lyric. Even when the Icicle Works falter, McNabb goes down with guns blazing.


Formed: 1980

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

The Icicle Works were one of those U.K. groups of the '80s that scored one fluke hit in the U.S. despite a somewhat lengthy and more successful run in their homeland. They released a number of albums that, while regularly inconsistent, featured scattered moments that helped define the type of big-sounding guitar rock -- prone to chest-beating bombast -- that set them apart from fellow Liverpool-based groups like Echo & the Bunnymen, the Teardrop Explodes, and (somewhat less so) Wah! The group formed...
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The Small Price of a Bicycle, The Icicle Works
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