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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Go Go Smear the Poison Ivy
Fat Cat

Rating: 8.1/10 ?

March 28, 2008
Since coming into official form in 1998 with the arrival of the sisters Valtýsdóttir, Múm have consistently orchestrated effective atmospheric electronic rock, music largely designed to take the listener on a journey to another world. Go Go Smear the Poison Ivy, the first release since the departure of Kristín Anna Valtýsdóttir (her sister Gyða left in 2002), is not a vast departure from Múm's previous outings, yet it is different enough that it could be their best release to date. The colorful blend of sounds composed by founding members Gunnar Örn Tynes and Örvar Þóreyjarson Smárason, backed by an ensemble of hired hands, intertwines with radiant yet seldom-used lyrics to deliver a product that only Múm could accurately produce. Over the course of the album's dozen songs they take the listener around the cosmos and back... or at least as far as one's imagination will allow.

The album starts with "Blessed Brambles," a track cloaked in the distinctive Múm style, and which is the longest song on the album. The song, comprised of ambient strings, uplifting beats, and mesmerizing lyrics, is classic Múm. The opener certainly sets the tone for the album, and entices the listener into the band's world, where reality is routinely checked at the door, and fantasy is allowed to reign supreme.

The most impressive aspects of Go Go Smear the Poison Ivy are the sharp melodic changes and various abrupt sounds interjected into many tracks. Just when the songs feel so full as to rule out the addition of any other possible noises, along comes a drum, guitar riff, synth beat, cling or clang that fits perfectly into the track's bigger picture. Some of the sonic elements do appear odd and extraneous at first listen, but on subsequent spins the listener develops a craving for them, and it is that near perfect placement of sound which truly distinguishes Múm from other bands in their genre.

Unlike many contemporary top-heavy albums, this one only gets better the deeper one digs into it. Perhaps the two most impressive tracks on the disk are "Marmalade Fires" and "Dancing Behind My Eyelids." The former track employs soothing strings, muffled horns and calculated lyrics, along with a host of other sounds, to bring the listener into a state of temporary euphoria, while the latter starts slowly before building into one of the most uplifting and radioactive songs on the disc. Both of the tunes are likely to dominate initial impressions of the album, especially for those coming late to the Icelandic band's discography.

Some of the shorter songs on the disc, such as "School Song Misfortune," "I Was Her Horse," and "Rhuubarbidoo" do seem out of place with the album's general mood, and they seem oddly placed in such a mystical and fantastical context. These songs mainly take up space, and don't add much to the disc in terms of depth or creativity.

That said, the adventurous nature of Go Go Smear the Poison Ivy keeps the listener tuned in. "Guilty Rocks" drops us into the middle of a hair-pulling spy novel, or perhaps in an all-consuming game of Clue. "Winter (What We Never Were After All)" sweeps the listener away as well, except this time it's to the middle of a snow-filled landscape, watching children at play, catching snowflakes with their tongue.

Although Múm's songs are perpetually less enchanting than those of their better-known Icelandic compatriots, their compositions certainly entertain, and allow listeners to drift into far away lands. Sadly, Go Go Smear the Poison Ivy was given a ho-hum reception by critics last year, and hence may never garner the popular acclaim it deserves, eclipsed as the band is by their contemporaries in Sigur Rós. However, the album's vibrancy and idiosyncratic traits certainly warrant another listen, especially for those willing to let a fanciful mind wander.

Reviewed by Brian Christopher Jones
A student living in Scotland and working toward a PhD in law.

See other reviews by Brian Christopher Jones



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