Published June 15, 2012
In 2012, Of Monsters And Men rose above all to the status as Iceland’s number one musical export, especially in the USA where their debut album stormed the Billboard charts, selling 55,000 copies in its first week of release (unheard of for an Icelandic act). And it’s hard not to see why. The band is a wholesome bunch of young whippersnappers making inordinately HAPPY, easily digestible folk pop. Oh, and there’s the small fact they signed to Universal Records last year.
Naturally, this has been decried by those who say: “Why?!?! It’s just middle-of-the-road mush for idiots with no taste!” This may be true, but so what? Since its humble beginnings, pop music has been littered with simple, unpretentious tunes that play merrily in the background while you do the dishes. It’s just the way of the world people. Pouring haterade on Of Monsters And Men is as pointless as hating the wind, or cheese, or Thursday.
That’s not to say that there aren’t problems with ‘My Head Is An Animal’ as an album. Production wise, it feels really bloated as if they’ve swallowed this stadium hoedown line of bullshit that goes: “whimsical, folksy music is authentic and contains true emotions. Hey, if we make the music BIGGER, those authentic emotions will be BIGGER too!” They’ve got extra guitarists, a brass section, and whacking great loads of big room echo on the drums and vocals. It sounds like bodybuilder music, all pumped up, but lacking real power underneath. Interestingly, when they ditch the hokeyness and write a straight up piano-led anthem, such as “Six Weeks,” it’s as good as anything else you’re likely to hear.
Then there are the lyrics, which occasionally reach Dolores O’Riordan levels of inanity. The nadir is the first verse on “Dirty Paws” (“There once was an animal/ He had a son who mowed the lawn/ The son was an okay guy/ He had a pet dragonfly”). Oof! The rest of the album isn’t quite as bad as that, but the saccharine quality of delivery means the songs come across like ‘Watership Down’ with all the bad bits taken out. Maybe this can be resolved by giving the band copies of “The Plague Dogs” and “Antichrist.” Meanwhile, the vocal diction of singer Nanna Bryndís is really wonky on several occasions. She can definitely sing a good tune, but she seems to have a near violent reaction to pronouncing ‘v’ and ‘t’ in words which, apart from distracting, can be a real liability on song titles like, “King and Lionheart” and “Love, Love, Love.”
If you’re one of those people looking for even a modicum of edge or emotional variety with your music, then keep walking. MHIAA is as sweet as it is inoffensive, and most people who just want something nice to listen to will take to them wholeheartedly. If this does represent the best of Icelandic music, though, then maybe we really need to start rethinking the game.
Read our OTHER music critic’s take on the album here.