Sunday, September 26, 2010

Go - Jonsi


XL Records.

SCQ Rating: 74%

Few bands of the 21st century have delivered the surge of fresh imagination that Sigur Ros have and, as a fan, I agree that their decade-long legacy merits protecting. With A Buzz In Our Ears, We Play Endlessly found the Icelandic quartet at their first songwriting crossroads since Von, when nobody really cared, and their slow submission to the forces that would pigeonhole them – as grandiose cinematic whores, as string-laden balladeers, etc. – seemed more inevitable than preferable. So Jonsi’s second detour in a year’s time, Go, arrives with some mixed feelings from this particular author. Sigur Ros’ increasingly self-aware recordings, which seemed to cater toward predetermined scenes (‘Gobbledigook’’s ride on Animal Collective’s coattails) and universal hurrahs (half of Takk... being used for BBC theme-songs), paved a path for this technicolor, English-singing pop-star adorning Go with strange attire and… are those wings? What it’s replaced, sadly, we’ve never understood beyond the beautiful sterility of a parenthesis or abusing the term “ethereal”.

Jonsi doesn’t turn his back on a winning formula, inundating Go with its share of orchestral stomps and soaring vocal crescendos. ‘Kolnidur’ operates closest to the Sigur Ros formula, condensing the band’s epic build into a tighter but no less graceful four minutes, unlike slicker, upbeat numbers like ‘Around Us’ which clock significantly longer. ‘Sinking Friendships’ does everything right, from the choir of disembodied Jonsis to a momentum coursing via piano and flute, but it’s hard to overlook how familiar these tracks feel, even in miniature. As such, a song like ‘Animal Arithmetic’ feels both like a predictable retread and a cheat-sheet remix for the ADHD generation. The purity of his voice remains matchless and engages this imperative material well but, like needed nutrients, the substance is occasionally pressure-cooked out of these songs. Lead track ‘Go Do’ is therefore the best template to lust after, organically weighty but steady enough to slip headfirst into dance territory. Or, at the very least, new territory.

Go is arguably Jonsi’s Bjork-moment and he’s earned a straightforward reprieve from his brooding day-job. Still, one hopes this is but a pleasing aside from his parent trajectory. Like his image on the cover, Go feels overly glitzy for someone so oblivious to charisma. The more-loveable Jonsi hid in the humble shadows of his band, almost ironic given they’re one of the world’s best, and I wish he’d have lingered behind this album no differently than Thom Yorke (yah I know, a frequent comparative point) had with The Eraser. It’s just a cover-shot, sure, but the pop implications run far deeper than most Sigur Ros fans would likely admit.

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