Mum - "Hullaballabalu" (Sing Along To Songs You Don’Äô)
Sing Along To Songs You Don’t Know pretty much bears out the critical consensus that Múm have gotten less and less worthy of comment since their auspicious early offerings, Yesterday Was Dramatic–Today Is OK and Finally We Are No One. Those albums were excitingly dark and shifty, musical in a deliberate way; this one, picking up a few miles farther out of the conservatory than Go Go Smear the Poison Ivy left off, is matter-of-factly unambitious, happily rustic, content just to exist in all its fetching uselessness. Gone are the child-bride vocal glissades, the sub-glacial tectonic glitches; gone, basically, are the creepy depths that Múm used to spend their time plumbing – in comparison to which Sing Along does sound kind of lazy, kind of complacent.
Múm have always been pointedly and para-musically weird, though. If they’re not pushing any interesting musical boundaries here, it’s because music seems to have become the secondary part, the means to some as-yet unarticulated end. The band’s personality comes into sharper focus than it ever has, in large part because most of the atmospheric novelties have been stripped away. The personality is still a little cutesy, half-baked at times and downright cultish at others (“You! Are! So! Beau! Ti! Ful! To! Us!/ We! Want! To! Keep! You! As! Our! Pets!”), but it coheres, and makes a good focal point when the music fails to.
That’s fails to, not fails. Sing Along is as down-to-earth as an album containing a song called “The Smell of Today Is Sweet Like Breastmilk in the Wind” can be: eagerly melodic and non-threateningly danceable much of the time, without that chilly Nordic edge one now expects from the Icelandic post-rock scene in general. And while that certainly could be cloying, it never actually is – sometimes it’s even quite lovely, as on the buoyant prepared-piano shuffle “Prophecies and Reversed Memories” or the gloomy “The Last Shapes of Never,” which sounds like a better-orchestrated Boduf Song. But if it’s never objectionable, it’s also never the next anything. That it doesn’t sound much like Múm used to sound doesn’t make it bad, but it doesn’t make it noteworthy, either.
Fortunately, Sing Along suggests pretty convincingly that Múm’s priorities are elsewhere. That turns out to be its most refreshing part, beyond its occasional spots of genuine if generic beauty: it sounds like the explorations of confident, talented musicians and songwriters with more on their minds than making music of great consequence. Our loss if that’s not good enough.