From Iceland — Reykjavík Art Museum- Friday

Reykjavík Art Museum- Friday

Published October 16, 2010

Photos by Hörður Sveinsson and Morgan Levy.
Chateau Marmont got right down to the point. Straightforward electro synth, indisputable as heartbeats; the music sounded at its best like a melding of Depeche Mode and Daft Punk. Indeed there were few frills to this band, though they were nearly giddy in their concentration. Everything about them was quite unceremonious—and endearingly so for they were obviously enjoying themselves, and the sentiment was infectious. There was no meandering towards the end, when the song, and the set, was over they basically just stopped playing.
Singer Rósa Birgitta Ísfeld of Feldberg is like a glamorous Hafdís Huld—that is to say, with a better fashion sense. Her collaboration with Einar Tönsberg is a saccharine musical project that takes pop to its most basic level. Rósa’s voice, ethereal and nearly childlike, has a nonchalance that translated better on the band’s record, however, than it did onstage. Jumping and clapping superfluously, the band unfortunately tried to present themselves as a vibrant, spirited pop group—which they are not. Their music is almost too peripheral for live playing; it is sort of like pleasant lounge music, something that would sound great in the background, as perhaps in a commercial, but that you don’t want to interact with too directly.
Dikta is entirely convincing as a bad American alt rock band—the kind of thing that was played incessantly on the radio in the early 2000s because it’s just good enough to not evoke strong feelings in anyone’s heart one way or another. Needless to say, Dikta may be Iceland’s most popular band at the moment—the kings of mediocrity, if you will—and during their set, the Art Museum reached its fullest capacity of the night. Everyone in the audience seemed not only to know the lyrics, which were in English, but also—inexplicably—to be able to differentiate and then replicate the melodies in the songs. The same crowd also ate up Everything Everything—who managed to do something the same by trying to do it different. The music wasn’t so bad, slightly conventional rock with a good and diverse rhythm, but the singer’s voice was so overbearing and piercing that the whole thing was sort of ruined.
I’m not much for organised religion, but under the right circumstances I’m pretty sure I would join Hurts singer Theo Hutchcraft’s cult. The band stepped on stage in darkness, immaculately groomed, the stark contrasts and symmetry of their clothes materializing from the shadows. In the audience someone held up a lighter, and across the sea of people the light from thirty camera screens lit up. Hurts both sounds and looks like it was born out of some more melodramatic period—the 80’s, to be precise—and their affectation was charming in its kitschiness.  When the song ‘Wonderful Life’ was announced, girls in the audience became nearly spasmodic. All over the building people were blithely dancing in clusters. Several people near the stage were passing around joints. On stage, the band’s presentation was so deliberate and assured as to appear nearly messianic. They made one long to be twelve-years-old again, with boy-band fever, eyes glued to the sculpted features of a handsome young man, commanding your skittish emotions with just the slow, deliberate wave of his hand.

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