Looking back on the London group's sole incendiary album...
'For Screening Purposes Only'

“Check! Go! The deepest cut, Searching for a stroke of luck, But what the fuck, Even happened here?” is how, Sam Mehran, Rory Attwell and Devonte Hynes, AKA Test Icicles, kicked off their 2005 debut album ‘For Screening Purposes Only’. Well, technically opening track ‘Your Biggest Mistake’ starts with a barrage of guitars, searing riffs and incendiary drums before the lyrics are snarled at us.

But you get the point. It’s the kind of opening that makes you sit up, pay attention, reassess what you are doing with your life and wonder WTF is actually going on.

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2005 was a year that was dominated by James Blunt’s ‘Back to Bedlam’, Coldplay’s ‘X&Y’ as well as landfill indie stalwarts Kaiser Chiefs, Keane, Athlete and the Stereophonics. Test Icicles were the antidote to this. Their hybrid of punk, indie, dance, metal and emo/screamo vocals was exciting and felt ephemera to the biggest hits of the day.

And herein lies one of the bands biggest problems, and one of their greatest assets. Due to their ability to incorporate their collective loves, and jump from genres in a heartbeat, it meant they weren’t easy to categorise or class.

I remember having a conversation with a friend about them just after the album had been released. He had enjoyed the singles, ‘Boa vs. Python’ and ‘Circle. Square. Triangle.’, and was expecting the album to follow suit, catchy poppy punk songs with dancey bits, but he wasn’t prepared for the unrelenting glitchy onslaught of ‘Catch It!’ the incoherent majesty of ‘Sharks’ or the pseudo metal or ‘Snowball’. He ended up exchanging the CD for Green Day’s ‘safer’ ‘American Idiot’. His loss.

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After the band broke up in 2006 Atwell went on to produce The Vaccines, Palma Violets, Childhood The History of Apple Pie, Luna Quiet and The Hundredth Anniversary. Hynes took on the guises of Lightspeed Champion and Blood Orange, as well as becoming a producer and songwriter for Solange Knowles, fka Twigs, Carly Rae Jepsen, Sky Ferreira, Diana Vickers and Mutya Keisha Siobhan. Mehran moved to America and performed in Outer Limit Recordings and Matrix Metals. A few weeks ago Mehran had finished recording a solo album when he was found dead in his home.

In the intervening years ‘For Screening Purposes Only’ has aged pretty well, when compared to other albums released around the time. This is partly down to how the band wasn’t following the trends of a homogenous scene - Libertines and Kaiser Chiefs we’re looking at you here! - and were instead pushing themselves to create something exciting and different.

Part of this credit must be given to producer James Ford. His work on ‘For Screening Purposes Only’ gives us a snapshot of what he would do with Klaxons on their Mercury Prize winning debut ‘Myths Of The Near Future’. The two bands aren’t that dissimilar, both combine genres and have the same frenzied energy, but with Klaxons’ Ford was able to accentuate their pop sensibility and help them crossover.

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‘For Screening Purposes Only’ is the sound of three teenagers not caring what is going on around them and just creating music because they can, rather than sticking to a well thought out career plan, or going through the motions as having to release something to fulfil a contractual obligation to a label. It’s a wild ride that is full of infectious melodies, catchy lyrics and a wild abandon that is hard to ignore. Fun oozes from its pours and you can almost smell the WKD blue and cheap lager on its breath.

“Did you ever think about the words...” they ask on the deliriously unhinged ‘What’s Your Damage?’ Yes, most days since 2005 actually.

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In memory of Sam Mehran.

Words: Nick Roseblade

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