The temptation is to refer to Icehouse as a "new band." After all, few pop music fans had heard of Icehouse before the "Crazy" single hit it big earlier this year.
But Icehouse is anything but a new band. Icehouse is a veteran band just now hitting a creative stride that could make it the biggest band to come out of Australia since INXS."The band is playing with a lot of confidence right now," explained guitarist Bob Kretschmer. "We're really coming together as a band."
Icehouse, which has just released a new album entitled "Man of Colour," is in the beginning stages of a U.S. tour that will bring the Aussies to Salt Lake City Wednesday for a 7:30 p.m. concert at Symphony Hall.
Success, in general, is nothing new to Icehouse. The band's latest album entered the Australian charts at No. 1 and sold some 7 million copies. Not bad for a band virtually unknown in the United States two years ago.
Americans have been slow to catch on, but Kretschmer said it is only a matter of time.
Icehouse was founded by singer-guitarist Iva Davies, who writes the band's music in partnership with Kretschmer. Davies was trained as a classical oboist at Sidney's New South Wales Conservatorium of Music.
At age 21, Davies became disenchanted with the professional aspects of classical music. He also developed a growing obsession with counterculture musicians like Lou Reed and Marc Bolan.
"They introduced me to a whole new possibility of artistic legitimacy that certainly had nothing to do with being in tune and in time," Davies said.
Davies purchased an electric guitar, recruited three mates and called themselves Icehouse. The band's first single "I Can't Help Myself" broke the Australian Top 10 in early 1980. Two albums, "Icehouse" and "Primitive Man," followed.
After major lineup changes in 1982 (Davies was the only original member left), Kretschmer and others joined the band. Albums, such as the bizarre "Sidewalk" three years ago, furthered the band's reputation as a cult band, but did little to expose them to mainstream audiences.
Despite the fact the band later toured with Elvis Costello, XTC and the Stranglers, the band's popularity was confined primarily to Down Under. At least until 1983 when the band's single "Hey Little Girl" hit the charts in Europe and landed them a tour opening for David Bowie.
Two years passed before the band released the album "Measure for Measure," which featured the AOR single "No Promises" the first real Icehouse hit to garner significant American radio airplay.
While "Sidewalk" was the last rec-ord Davies wrote by himself, "Measure for Measure" was the first to feature Kretschmer's songwriting talents. While it was certainly more pop oriented, it was an uneven effort.
"Measure for Measure" may have opened the door for international success, but it was "Man of Colour" that has put Icehouse on the verge of superstardom. Not only has the hit single "Crazy" done exceptionally well, but the entire album has won accolades from a broad spectrum of American critics.
"The thing about the new album is we didn't worry about outside influences," Kretschmer said, referring to musical influences like Bowie, Bolan and Reed. "We had pretty well exhausted those influences anyway, and it forced us to explore new directions."
It also provided the forum for Kretschmer to hone songwriting skills that were admittedly rough on the "Measure for Measure" album. "We really came together on `Man of Colours' " he said. "Iva is still the main guy in the band, but it's more of a band effort now."
While Icehouse is earning kudos for its pop music, Davies and Kretschmer are also earning accolades for their work in the avant-garde ballet "Boxes," which played to sold out audiences at the Sidney Opera House.
Both songwriters started out intending only to write the musical score for the ballet but ended up writing the story line as well. They were also invited to perform in the production, which won rave reviews.
"In the finicky world of rock 'n' roll, you're up one day and down the next," he said. "We're always on the alert for different ways we can use our talents doing something else."
Icehouse is Davies, Kretschmer, Andy Qunta, Simon Lloyd, Stephen Morgan and Paul Wheeler.