Plumbiferous Media

Sing Along to Songs You Don’t Know - múm

Aug 30th 2009
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Sing Along to Songs You Don't Know - múmmúm
Sing Along to Songs You Don't Know
Score: 26








Múm is an exper­i­men­tal group from Ice­land whose pre­vi­ous work has been marked by a strong elec­tron­ic influ­ence. Since their for­ma­tion in 1997, they’ve released six albums. Their newest album, Sing Along to Songs You Don’t Know, is var­ied enough in its exper­i­men­ta­tion that it should by all rights be at least inter­est­ing, but it man­ages to fall short.

One of the largest prob­lems with Sing Along to Songs You Don’t Know is the instru­men­tal deci­sions. While much of Sing Along to Songs You Don’t Know uses a stan­dard of gui­tar, strings, and pure synth, múm has also decid­ed that that arrange­ment lacks diver­si­ty (and it does). But in order to make the instru­men­tals more inter­est­ing, the band relies heav­i­ly on effects and dis­tor­tion as well as odd (and most like­ly syn­the­sized) per­cus­sive sounds such as those of “Sing Along” or the spring­ing sound of “Proph­e­sies & Reversed Mem­o­ries.” Occa­sion­al­ly the band even takes this exper­i­men­ta­tion slight­ly fur­ther: “The Smell of Today Is Sweet Like Breast­milk in the Wind,” as an exam­ple, uses elec­tron­ic per­cus­sion that sounds only slight­ly bet­ter than some­one play­ing with the per­cus­sion patch on a cheap key­board. While múm clear­ly knew it need­ed exper­i­men­ta­tion to keep the album alive, it also clear­ly did not know how exact­ly it should exper­i­ment.

The vocals of Sing Along to Songs You Don’t Know aren’t bad. They sim­ply fail to hold the inter­est of the lis­ten­er for the entire­ty of the album. Múm’s ten­den­cy towards mut­ed vocals would be entire­ly for­giv­able if it cre­at­ed a stronger con­nec­tion with the music or improved the album as a whole. Instead, it results in the vocals falling into a har­mo­nious but repet­i­tive pat­tern ear­ly in the album and nev­er leav­ing it. Pushed below the elec­tron­ic effects and instru­men­tal odd­i­ties which fill Sing Along to Songs You Don’t Know, the vocals are nev­er notable past their pres­ence as yet anoth­er sound on an often clut­tered and rarely inter­est­ing album.

Sing Along to Songs You Don’t Know cer­tain­ly suf­fers lyri­cal­ly from the mediocre vocal pres­ence on the album. How­ev­er, the lyrics don’t need any help what­so­ev­er to be the worst part of the album. Obvi­ous­ly meant to be play­ful, they instead come off as laugh­able, fur­ther decreas­ing any hold­ing pow­er the album might have had. After its begin­ning with “If I Were a Fish,” which con­tains such amaz­ing lines as “If I were a fish / And you were a seashell / Would you mar­ry me any­way? / Would you have my babies?” the album moves straight into the unset­tling (if some­what hilar­i­ous) sec­tion from “Sing Along: “You are so beau­ti­ful to us / We want to lock you in a house / We want to beat you with a spoon / We want to make you sing along / To songs you don’t know.” The lyrics take a slight break from mak­ing no sense what­so­ev­er on “A Riv­er Don’t Stop to Breathe,” where they’re a fair­ly well-used part of the track - but that’s an iso­lat­ed inci­dent. The lyrics only get worse from there, to the point where the qua­si-word “Hul­la­bal­la­balú” mas­quer­ades as a line - and not well.

Although the lyrics put the rest of the album to shame in this regard, Sing Along to Songs You Don’t Know is often over­ly sim­plis­tic. And while the music was clear­ly meant to fit well with the lyrics, imi­tat­ing in sound the images the phras­es pro­vide, doing so is not par­tic­u­lar­ly ben­e­fi­cial to the album when the lyri­cal con­tent is made up of inter-species rela­tion­ships and non­sense words. Of course, when the lyrics turn from per­turb­ing to dull, the music does as well, leav­ing many tracks, espe­cial­ly those towards the end of the album, unin­ter­est­ing even to the point of being for­get­table.

Sing Along to Songs You Don’t Know shows some promise. “A Riv­er Don’t Stop to Breathe,” though not per­fect, is inter­est­ing not only har­mon­i­cal­ly and melod­i­cal­ly, but also in instru­men­ta­tion. Lat­er, “Kay-Ray-Ku-Ku-Ko-Kex,” despite its healthy use of non-words, pro­vides a much need­ed point of diver­si­ty on the album in addi­tion to using inter­est­ing chord pro­gres­sions and har­monies. But for the most part, Sing Along to Songs You Don’t Know is by no means a suc­cess­ful album. The vocals are decent, but lack diver­si­ty, the instru­men­tals range wide­ly from good to bad, and the lyrics are sim­ply dis­as­trous. As for the music as a whole, it pass­es briefly through inter­est­ing on its mer­ry way to mediocre and beyond.


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One Response

  1. mìko says:

    idiot. yoooooooou.

    ”elec­tronic per­cus­sion that sounds only slight­ly bet­ter than some­one play­ing with the per­cus­sion patch on a cheap key­board”.

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