Being such an openly effervescent character, and wielding such an in-your-face, eccentric stage presence to boot, the straight-faced nature of “Mugimama: Is This Monkey Music?” comes as somewhat of a surprise. Beginning with “I Want You” (a track that Mugison openly admits he ripped off the Beatles’ “She’s So Heavy” on, although he sounds strangely like a Scandinavian Chris Martin on it), no time is wasted with formal introductions or guarded song-writing. Instead, we’re steeped straight into personal territory. “I Want You” is the song Mugison used to get his girlfriend back with, and while its whining despair bubbles amongst a play of tricky instrumentation, it sets up what’s to follow in two ways: 1) Musically, we’re given a taste of the toy-like, processed sounds that will chop and change throughout Mugimama, chiming creepily as if they were emanating from a madman’s dilapidated workshop somewhere near Lapland. 2) In what will prove to be an important element of the album, a real-life relationship is unexpectedly (and openly) brought into the fold from the very outset.
Vocally, Rúna (his girlfriend) features almost as much as Mugison throughout; for example, on “The Chicken Song,” seeking approval, Mugison asks her innocently: “do you want me to be intellectual?” “Yeah, be intellectual, baby,” she replies soothingly, sounding like a mothering figure dishing out much-needed encouragement before whispering the instruction: “Hey, c’mon, sing that first verse again, ok?” Indeed, there is an odd, tangible bond present between them, as quirky as it is potentially tragic – you can almost see them lying in each others arms while singing a duet one moment, and entering into a suicide pact the next.
The results give us some intimate, carefully crafted love-songs where the pair trade lines like a duo with nothing to hide (such as the water-pouring “2 Birds,” and the cosy lo-fi feel of “What I Would Say In Your Funeral”), but there are also some energetic, playful moments to be had (and there’d want to be, or past audience members might think they’d picked up the wrong CD). “Sad as a Truck” explodes in through the door out of nowhere, its brilliant, driving bass dancing manically on the grave of all that’s come before. Meanwhile, on the back of the slow, peculiar imagery of “I’d ask” (“a pen, a pillow, paperwork, chill…”) comes the brilliantly up-tempo acoustics of “Murr Murr,” sounding like Bert Jansch manipulated by pro-tools.
In all, “Mugimama” is a strange little Icelandic wonderland that’s surprisingly dark at times, and while the comedy of Mugison’s live shows seems nowhere in sight, its endearing in an entirely different way. Artistic, poetic, heartbreaking…its intricacies manage to captivate the listener by drawing a colourful, bizarre kind of strength from a shared sense of vulnerability.
|Artist / Group:|
|Mugimama: Is This Monkey Music?|
|25th April 2005|