Icicle Works In-depth Biography
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 in 1980. Singer/guitarist/keyboardist Ian McNabb} had played in a number of other groups from a young age, including Young World}, which performed at private events and also featured drummer Chris Sharrock}. McNabb} and Sharrock} went on to play with different acts -- the former in City Lights}, the latter in the Cherry Boys} -- but they eventually decided to form a group of their own, with the addition of former Eleanor} bassist Chris Layhe}. Although they released a low-key six-song cassette that was sold at Liverpool's Probe Records, they didn't make their official debut until October 1982, when the "Nirvana"} single was issued on Troll Kitchen}. It went up to number 15 on the U.K. chart, prompting Beggars Banquet} subsidiary Situation 2} to rope in the group.
The Hugh Jones}-produced "Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream)"} would provide the Icicle Works} with their greatest commercial standing in the U.S. Released in 1984 via Beggars Banquet}'s stateside arrangement with Arista}, the powers that were in the U.S. had the title of the song switched around to "Whisper to a Scream (Birds Fly)."} The song remained on the Hot 100 chart for four weeks and peaked at number 37. The song didn't fare quite as well in the U.K.; it stalled at number 53. Nonetheless, the popularity of the song in the U.S. helped catapult the group's self-titled debut album to number 40 on the album chart. A prolific succession of albums -- 1985's The Small Price of a Bicycle}, 1986's Understanding Jane} and Seven Singles Deep}, 1987's If You Want to Defeat Your Enemy Sing His Song}, 1988's Blind} -- helped maintain a cult of numerous followers, many of whom were on board for McNabb}'s impassioned songwriting. Each album featured its own share of throwaway material and, by the time of Blind}, the group was dabbling in an over-ambitious lost-map mixture of soul}, funk}, blooze}, and rock}.
After the recording of Blind}, Sharrock} left the group to join the Lightning Seeds}; Layhe} exited as well, but McNabb} continued with bassist Roy Corkhill} and drummer Zak Starkey}, Ringo Starr}'s son. Even after this, a number of personnel changes occurred. By the time 1990's Permanent Damage} was recorded, McNabb} was supported by Corkhill}, Dave Baldwin}, Paul Burgess}, and Mark Revell}. Despite McNabb}'s resilience, the album went nowhere and the group was eventually laid to rest. The leader began a solo career that followed the folk-rock} leanings that played an increasing role throughout his band's lifespan. ~ Andy Kellman, All Music Guide