Published May 10, 2012
So you have no doubts about the meaning of Hljómsveitin Ég’s fourth album, ‘Ímynd fíflsins’ (“The Image Of The Idiot”), singer Róbert Örn Hjálmtýsson adorns the cover with the most gormless, inbred, shit-eating-grin this side of a country horse festival.
Because this album is about us all being idiots—idiots that allow themselves to be dictated to by politicians, media, and the Vatican (‘Sauðkindur’), idiots that ruin the earth (‘Maðurinn’), and idiots that allow themselves to be swamped by crappy movies, porn, sugar and Ritalin (‘Heimska’). Róbert himself is more than willing to play the idiot. Besides the front cover, he spells his name with a backwards R, sings “I admit that I am stupid myself” on ‘Heimska’, while “delaying” the mastering, “destroying” the photography, and “complicating” the production design, according to the credits.
But the mix of jokey irreverence and earnest seriousness is an uneasy alliance. As the album progresses, the lyrical tone begins to resemble that of Georg Bjarnfreðarson, ranting about US imperialism, and the evils of fluoride in the drinking water. He may be right, but when someone starts ranting with no underlying wit or sarcasm, people tend to stop listening. Indeed, Róbert’s on much surer ground when he internalises his issues, in ‘Hjálp,’ for instance, or when he’s light hearted in ‘Hugleiða.’
And this railing at modern life isn’t really backed up by the music. In a perfect example of “photocopier rock,” Ég has produced a sound that could’ve come from any journeyman psychedelic rock band in 1969. Spongy bass, dampened drums and monofuzz guitars accompany throwaway melodies that sound dry and bereft of reverb. It may look and sound like the real deal, but there’s no real depth or power. It’s merely paper-thin. Add to this Róbert’s voice has a grating quality, especially on the higher notes, which kind of puts you off pursuing any further meaning in the songs.
‘Ímynd fíflsins’ could’ve been an epic album of a man’s inner rage at the stupidity he sees around him every day. If only they had better tunes to back it up.
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