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Sing Along To Songs You Don’t Know Paul Sullivan , August 26th, 2009 10:11

In their decade-long existence Icelandic Original Quirksters múm have never scrimped on the silliness. Albums called Yesterday Was Dramatic, Today Is OK and Finally, We Are No One, and song names such as 'They Made Frogs Smoke Til They Exploded' have epitomised the band's child-like musical curiosity and surrealist sense of expression.

So it's absolutely no surprise to hear, two songs into the band's sixth album, lines such as "If I were a fish / and you were a seashell / would you marry me anyway?" or "You are so beautiful to us / We want to lock you in our house/ You are so beautiful to us / We want to eat you with our spoons". Written like this, free of musical context, these are evidently absurdist lyrics. Yet, married to the band's coruscating soundworlds — meandering and halcyon on opener 'If I Were A Fish'; stuttering and blithesome on 'Sing Along' — they somehow provide suspension of disbelief, contributing to the spell that's cast over all but the most cynical ears.

In fact Sing Along To Songs You Don't Know is about this very phenomenon: discarding skeptical preconceptions and joining in with some credulous, wholesome fun. "Embrace your inner child!" the band urge us: "Let yourself go! Indulge in our kooky karaoke!" And on the frisky 'Prophecies And Reversed Memories', the cowbell-fueled 'The Smell Of Today Is Sweet Like Breastmilk In The Wind', and 'Hullaballabalú', it's truly difficult not to come over all "Gobbledigook" and feel at least a little exulted.

These joyful bubbles are balanced by a slew of woozy, oozing offerings that make use of the band's talented string section: the aching environmentalist anthem 'A River Don't Stop To Breathe'; the slightly lachrymose 'Show Me'; the surprisingly un-snotty 'Blow Your Nose'. Then there's "Kay-ray-ku-ku-ko-kex" which could have been co-written by Tom Zé.

True, the record seesaws somewhat erratically between moods and paces. But it manages to stay mellifluous, anchored musically by the band's avidity for exotic instrumentation (dulcimers and glockenspiels, crackling fires in a hundred-year-old-house, a Hohner Guitaret) and lyrically by a subtle but discernible aquatic theme. And while it's undeniably a more undulating affair than 2007's spiky Go Go Smear The Poison Ivy, there are enough clonks, bonks and whirrs to prevent it becoming aural wallpaper. Moreover, the record contains, amidst the pastoral banjo-twangs and boinging background sounds, some of the most accessible and memorable tunes the band have yet crafted.

A bit silly they may be, but múm remain the finest kitchen-sink minstrels this side of the 14th Century.

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