To the roster of outsider strangeness that includes Björk and Sigur Rós can now be added Mugison.
Mugison – Mugiboogie
Maybe it is coming from a place which looks like the Earth must have done early in it’s tumultuous pre-history, perhaps its being devoid of sunlight for half the year, or possibly it is because they are stuck out in the middle of the Atlantic – caught between Europe and the US, but miles from either. Whatever the reason Icelandic musicians have an oft-noted track-record for oddness, otherness and for being a bit bonkers. To the roster of outsider strangeness that includes Björk and Sigur Rós can now be added Mugison.
Whilst his aforementioned compatriots never sound like anything other than themselves, Mugison does frequently sound somewhat like other artists. Just never for long. At times he gives a Prince-like falsetto, at others a Slipknot-esque growl and at others a deep soulful croon. The music that runs under these vocal exercises is equally as divers.
This is an album that veers like a Glaswegian loaded on Buckfast at three in the morning. Mugison (known as Örn Elías Guðmundsson to his parents) is like a child deprived of his Ritalin. The title track and opener is well-named being, well, a boogie-woogie number. There then follows a toe-tapping blues number ‘The Pathetic Anthem’ where he announces that every performer is a preacher’. In which case he is preaching a decidedly strange gospel – or at least a somewhat confused one.
He seems caught between styles and cultures. He lists John Lee Hooker, Hendrix, Screaming Jay, Bowie, Dylan, The Beatles, Aphex Twin, Björk, Sepultura, the Pixies and Tom Waits all as being influential in the album. Whilst he claims that the linking thread between these diverse artists is that “they were all expressing true feelings and there were no compromises” – too much of the album feels like it is made up of exercises in doing a genre because he can.
Between the freakouts, work-outs, blues-rockers and noise feasts are a couple of ballads. One of this is indicatively titled George Harrison – another artist who was between cultures – attempting to meld apparently disparate musical threads into something unified. Unlike George, however, Guðmundsson’s attempts are not unified. There are parts that are glorious. Indeed taken individually most of the songs are ace. Mixed together, though, and it leaves the listener reeling – the musical equivalent of a dirty pint.