I’ve always had a slightly ambivalent attitude to múm. This was partly due to Kristín Anna Valtýsdóttir’s kindergarten vocals, but also the band’s forays into cloying toyshop tweeness. At their best, though, the sweetness carried just enough of an undercurrent of darkness to work.
With Kristín off in search of fame and fortune as a solo artist, the group were down to the core duo of Gunnar Örn Tynes and Örvar Þóreyjarson Smárason for Go Go Smear the Poison Ivy (the title comes from a line in the opening track “Blessed Brambles”), but there’s a large collective at work. They’ve seemingly embraced the nu-folk movement wholeheartedly, although there was always a big rustic element to the group – they’ve never been a purely electronic act. But while “Blessed Brambles” could have come straight out of the Fence Collective, the strongest tracks play down the folkishness for something more lavish. “Marmalade Fires” is a lovely song. With its sweeping strings, it gives a nod to fellow countrymen Sigur Rós, but with a more modest heart. “Dancing Behind My Eyelids” is another highlight – a glorious pop song with an unusually frantic tempo, and an almost Squarepusher like drill ‘n’ bass break.
Some tunes totally overdo the whimsy, though. “School Song Misfortune” is all tinkling xylophones, oompah tuba and nonsense vocals. It’s irritating, but mercifully pretty brief. These missteps are few, thankfully. Generally the sonic experiments work, although “I Was Her Horse” is one of a few tracks that doesn’t really develop into anything, after a strong start redolent of Jaga Jazzist. The album wraps up with possibly its finest moment. “Winter (What We Never Were After All)” has a suitably glacial feel to it as it builds into a vocal chorus. Aphex Twin meets the Mike Sammes Singers. That may sound a glib comparison, but it’s a stunning track. Go Go Smear the Poison Ivy is múm’s best record yet. If they would just tone down the whimsy a little, they could make something truly amazing.
1 Blessed Brambles (6:01)
2 A Little Bit, Sometimes (3:51)
3 They Made Frogs Smoke ‘Til They Exploded (4:02)
4 These Eyes Are Berries (3:01)
5 Moon Pulls (2:33)
6 Marmalade Fires (5:03)
7 Rhuubarbidoo (1:35)
8 Dancing Behind My Eyelids (4:07)
9 School Song Misfortune (2:39)
10 I Was Her Horse (2:09)
11 Guilty Rocks (5:03)
12 Winter (What We Never Were After All) (4:08).