Ok, cards on the table, I love Iceland. I find it inconceivable that any cultural facet indigenous to the place would be anything less than simply magical. Even when their economy collapsed after an ill-advised foray into business not directly involving shark by-products (I think) concurrently costing our economy 2.3 billion pounds I just shrugged it off, those little tykes; whatever they’ve cost us they make up for in wonderment and whimsy. Now, I know that these are brash generalizations bordering on the racist but… just saying, I lay no claim to objectivity when reviewing Múm’s latest album. I just find the place adorable.
So, Múm then, the knowingly disingenuous album title Sing Along to Songs you Don’t Know belies the almost admirable lack of a traditional chorus, verse structure herein; basically, if I’m singing along to anything, Newcastle Brown will be used as a catalyst and the song, inevitably, will be Reef’s Place your hand and no wilfully obtuse Icelandic songsmithery is going to change that. However, not that there isn’t much to enjoy in the melodies and twee instrumentation, apparently Sing Along To Songs You Don't Know is “…an ode to the light in its different shapes, from a fading bulb to the blinding sun…” (… Fuck me!) Certainly there is, it has to be said, a playfully upbeat tone underscoring proceedings.
Indeed the musical invention contained is truly something to behold as they even manage to craft an inspired, uplifting 3 minutes and 47 seconds of music featuring the word húllabbalabbalúlú. Driven consistently by fragile female vocals and harmonies the album effortlessly switches tone from lullaby romance to the achingly somber – unsurprising given Iceland’s current economic state.
It’s hard to imagine the turbulent political climate in which the album was concocted but in the deceptively naïve little ditties there’s a few telltale signs – it’s hardly Never mind the Bollocks but through the dementedly discordant casio drum accompaniment of The smell of today is sweet like the breastmilk of tomorrow (the song is literally called that) one can almost imagine hirsute young Icelandic men voicing their discontent. Of course, even this glorious aberration is juxtaposed with the inevitable optimism that is shot through the entire album, ace! It’s just one example of the musical creativity found throughout, drop the needle at any part of the album and there so much to listen for; part reflective, part knowingly eccentric though rarely less than fascinating – the beguiling harmonies and choral accompaniments are thoughtfully deployed throughout. In summation, ideal for those who found fellow Icelandic luminaries Sigur Ros’ meandering, overly reverential soundscapes frankly, dull.