Published May 11, 2015
‘Revolution in the Elbow of Ragnar Agnarsson, Furniture Painter’ is that most maligned and misunderstood of musical entities: the concept album. Written by Ívar Páll Jónsson, it tells the story of Elbowville, a small nation that lives in the elbow of said furniture painter. It’s an idyllic community threatened by ambition and greed as they strive for importance; they eventually band together to rise up in a revolution, with the “evol” part of the word turned around to spell “love.” The feels surely overflow with this one.
What we have here is not a live recording of the musical performance but the studio version. And one thing you can say is that this album is the epitome of professionalism. As well as some effort being put into the production values, a whole raft of Icelandic pop talent, from Sigríður “Hjaltalín” Thorlacius, to the Lion King of Eurovision, Eyþór Ingi Gunnlaugsson, have been drafted for vocals. With Ívar declaring musical influences from Radiohead to Queen, the music itself ranges runs the gamut stylistically, from the 70s-inspired pomp that you expect from 10cc and seconddivision Bond film soundtrack writers, to contemporary plushie indie rock that would give the likes of Monotown and Biggi Hilmars a small chubby.
But despite all this competence, it’s unfortunate that the music simply. Does. Not. Rock. Some of the tracks, such as opener “The Legacy of Elbowville,” do have a capable groove and well-constructed bassline. But underneath the swoop and bombast of the string sections and the strained melodrama, this is music that is ordered, structured, utterly lacking in life affirmation and danger. It’s the soundtrack of quarterly reports and metrics, instead of music that would approximate something like an actual revolution. The fact that it features the lead singer of Leaves, one of the dullest rock bands this nation has had the misfortune of birthing, tells you everything you need to know.
I don’t doubt the sincerity of the intent from everyone involved with this album. It desperately wants to be light, quirky and frivolous, yet also convey a deep meaningful message When they sing “R-e-e-e-volution!” on the final track, it has all the call-to-arms, rabblerousing energy of a corporate teambuilding seminar.
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