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Album Review

THE ICONS
Jacks of All Trades
Masters of Disaster

Tom Dyer is still pissed that Phil Ochs stole the parody of the Elvis cover for his Greatest Hits album (50 Phil Ochs Fans Can't Be Wrong) and if he isn't, he should be. Looking back, I can hardly imagine more than 50 jumping and pogo-ing fans in front of an Icons stage, but in those days I hardly went out in public and have no idea what the world of live music was. I would not be surprised to find out the The Icons packed out every dungeon masquerading as a dance hall each and every time they played because, in retrospect, these guys had to be a shitload of fun--- schizoid, irreverent and in-your-face, but in a nice guy way. And funny as hell when they wanted to be. Certainly not Masters of Disaster. But when you think about it.....

They are schizoid in that the band's two songwriters, Tom Dyer and Steve Trettevik, while sharing the same sense of humor and music, lived on opposite sides of the planet. Trettevik sounds like a Star Trek mutant--- as if something went wrong with that thing that beamed him up and he was reassembled as a punk version of Richard Thompson. Relying heavily on distorted guitar and pop crunch, he writes like a pre-Easybeats Vanda and Young fed on garage gruel. Dyer, on the other hand, is a look at what the Pac NW garage scene of the sixties would have been if any of those young punks had had a sense of humor. Subject matter to Dyer just doesn't really matter, or so you might think after hearing the totally laughable (Half the World Is Made of) Women, whose recurring chorus of “Okay, girls, let's go!” has me smiling if not in stitches every time I hear it. Oh, sure, Dyer has his more serious moments, but give me Work Ethic Rock and Howlin' At the Moon over those moments every time. Those stitches in my side? Courtesy of Tom Dyer.

The Icons have somehow conjured up a mixture of the sixties and the eighties (the Seattle pop rock eighties) and remastered it for the present. No mosh pit for these guys, though on some songs they deserve one. No adoring throngs, though there are plenty who appreciate what they did and are doing (Danger, Will Robinson! New album in the works?). No money. You might say it is just like old times because back in the old days, Dyer was pouring money into the likes of Capping Day and Green Pajamas and The Life and Prudence Dredge, among others, and getting very little in return. Well, besides the satisfaction of being true to the music he loved.

Which begs the question: Why would a guy like Tom Dyer dig up 1986 recordings, release them to an unsuspecting public and then threaten to take a reformed Icons back into the studio? A devious plan worth millions or a hoax perpetrated by a rocker who belonged in the sixties but was trapped in a world he never made (apologies to Howard the Duck)? Only your ears can decide. Mine already have. Because not that long ago, It Crawled From the Basement.....

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

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