Whisper, The Icicle Works?

I imagine everyone knows exponentially more song melodies than corresponding performers and titles, although I feel I’m particularly egregious in this respect. As a result, I find it pretty exciting when I finally learn, “oh, that’s who sang that,” some 20+ years later. I thought I had never heard (or of) the 1980s Liverpool-based band The Icicle Works until I started to follow Amsterdam, a current Liverpool-based band heavily influenced by The Jam and others. One of those others is Ian McNabb, currently a solo performer and former lead singer/songwriter of The Icicle Works.

Ian Prowse, lead singer of Amsterdam, has performed with McNabb on numerous occasions and often cites him as a major influence. So, I recently picked up the import only, remastered and expanded edition of the band’s 1984 critically acclaimed self-titled debut. Imagine my surprise and excitement when I heard the song, “Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream).”

In the U.S., the titled was inverted, so it became popularly known as “Whisper to a Scream” and was in the Top 40 for weeks. I’ve never been a huge fan of U2, so I take no offense at the following commentary from All-Music Guide, “Frankly, the members of U2 must have wished they could be so emotional and so soaring at this point in their careers. As for “Birds Fly,” the song stands as a joyous rave-up of quick drums and shimmering guitars with an inspiring, frenetic chorus tempered by a gentle, half-whispered conclusion.”

So, did you know this song was The Icicle Works? I sure as hell didn’t.

“Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream)”



3 Responses to “Whisper, The Icicle Works?”

  1. March 13, 2007 at 12:15 pm

    Yeah! This was one of those songs that I actually resisted at the time but it eventually won me over and I ended up bobbing my head in happy concordance when I heard it. It also got burned pretty deep in the subconscious: I seem to remember every sonic detail.

    It was part of the better half of 80s music–the part that included the English Beat, the Jam, early Cure, some of the ska bands–which is unfortunately not as representative of the period as it should be. Somehow, a lot of the great music of that time is obscured by the zombie fluff. I don’t think it’s the same for the 60s; I think we have a lot of the good stuff. But the 80s aren’t alive in the same way. I would have to run that notion through its paces–clearly these guys get to tour again–but I’m not sure that’s not the case.

    Also, it was an era where your big “concept” for your video could go like this: “Wait! I know! Leaves!” Brilliant. Pay a couple of neighborhood kids some pocket change to rake the street; forty-five minutes in the studio; boom, done, ship it. Simpler times.

    Speaking of which, enjoy that video while you can. Viacom is making the billion-dollar mistake of suing YouTube. They might win, but they will lose more than a billion dollars worth of advertising and promotion. You just can’t pry a businessman’s eyes away from a dollar.

  2. March 13, 2007 at 3:05 pm

    Gosh, after reading Colin’s comment, I feel like a fool admitting I’m not familiar with this song. My only excuse is that I was too busy listening to my Superbowl Shuffle and Footloose soundtrack LPs at the time which prevented me from catching on to music that was actually worthy of greatness. Kenny Loggins is tough to mess with though…

  3. 3 Joe
    March 13, 2007 at 3:17 pm

    I’m surprised Jason doesn’t recall this one. It was around the time of the Shuffle though. It’s one of those songs that just feels like it has always been ingrained in my head. Interestingly enough, speaking to both comments, the song wasn’t as big of a hit in the UK, but the band was much bigger. Therefore, they did have a 25th Anniversary Tour and the band is remembered alongside other key Liverpool-based 80s bands, including Echo & the Bunnymen and The Lightning Seeds. I’ve been listening to the Seeds a lot recently too. You definitely have to “find” the real 80s music, something that’s not the case with the 60s. The box set “Left of the Dial” is a solid starting point…

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