LIVE: Kill, The Icon! @ Oslo, Hackney

By Katherine Allvey

Up-and-coming punks Benefits are being hailed by critics across the board as the new working class middle finger to the establishment, but what about their tour-mates Kill, the Icon!? Led by punk rock covid-accountability-activist Nishant Joshi, they’re writing songs which are completely unflinching in their accusations towards racism in the UK. Rebelling too against the traditional band setup, they’ve ditched the guitars and opted for two drummers, synth, bass and vocals as their preferred method for nailing down their manifesto to the wall. 

There’s a wallflower crowd tonight at Oslo in Hackney, and professional photographers seem to outnumber the punters. The hype building around these guys is very real despite an unlucky early place in tonight’s lineup. Like a reincarnated Reagan-era version of New Order, the opening synths to ‘Danny Is A Hate Preacher’ are demolished into rubble when the second drummer joins the party. Joshi intones doomsday in his paisley shirt, the eye of the storm amid the 8-bit chaos around him. ‘Speakeasy’, their ‘song about losing your job’ is the soundtrack Ian Drury would make to a cynical arcade game, and it’s glorious in its melodic anarchy.  Joshi’s vocal stops on ‘Deathwish’ are as abrupt as stubbed toes, and the notoriously bigoted phrase ‘no dogs, no Blacks, no Irish’ is sardonically spat out over lolloping keyboards tripping over themselves.

That’s what makes so Kill, The Icon! so very exciting. Their music is ferociously intelligent and simultaneously incredibly low key and DIY. They can even quote a sign emblematic of hatred and turn it into their own sonic weapon. Take ‘Hard Heart’, their ‘dance song about decolonisation’. The lyrics side step around the insidious language surrounding race, treading hatred under endless vicious drumbeats and Blue Monday electronica. ‘Average White Band’ was only released earlier that day, as they inform us, and it’s the sound of the future as imagined in the past. There are so many layers of irony like a postmodern birthday cake, and there’s something so wonderfully odd about the repetition if the line ‘Black James Bond’. Joshi’s precise explanatory vocals are a repeating spiral of motioning to reinforce a point.

It feels like as soon as Kill, The Icon! arrive, they’re already halfway out the door on their way out. Final song ‘Protect The Brand’ is an anti-lecture, a song that you’ll rave to while questioning your own beliefs about corporate society, and they leave us stunned with their rapid interrogation of our values over iconoclastic and ironic anarchist pop. There are so many bands at the moment who claim to be making a serious point about British society, but Kill, The Icon! are the top; the unadulterated sound of unflinching, danceable questioning that should already be on your playlists.