Editor's Note: Yes, I know this is years late. The explanation for
why it's late is long, complex and not terribly good, so we're not going to provide it here. Move along.
When Sigur Rós first made a splash on these shores a few years ago with their debut full-length Agaetis Byrjun, I couldn't quite figure out what all the fuss was about. Sure, their stuff was pretty, but so is the material of a hundred of other like-minded bands. Sigur Rós's stuff didn't strike me as that much more dreamy or of that much higher quality than any other mostly-instrumental-dream-rock band on the scene, and the fact that their arrival came accompanied by a tremendous amount of hype only served to further sour my opinion of the band. And that whole "Hopelandish" thing -- the made-up language that frontman Jon Birgisson purported to sing in -- totally rubbed me the wrong way. However, I admit that I never sat down with a copy of Agaetis Byrjun and a bong and really tried to make friends.
Now, faced with the task of reviewing their latest, untitled major-label debut, all I can say is, goddamn, the emperor got no clothes. Once again, sure, the music's pretty. But with their incredible pretentiousness, Sigur Rós utterly destroy any enjoyment that I might glean from their oh-so-pretty music. For starters, there's still that whole made-up-language thing, which, as several other astute critics have pointed out before me, really boils down to a few made-up syllables. I mean, how many times can you listen to a guy croon "You xylo, you xylo no fi lo" over the course of an hour-long album and not start to feel like it's all a big hoax? It strikes me that with this façade of a made-up tongue, Birgisson is merely throwing a thin cloak over the fact that he hasnít got a damn thing to say.
Even if Birgisson actually had something intelligible to say, or, alternately, never once opened his mouth throughout the record, I would still have a beef with it (though, admittedly, probably not as big of one). Once again, most of it boils down to arty pretentiousness. Sigur Rós seems to be of the opinion that their material is so above every other thing in the pop music realm that they donít even feel the need to title their record, or even to name its songs. If the songs didnít all sound exactly the same (with pretty much the same nonsense syllables crooned in each and every one), and there was a way of differentiating between them, this might not be such a problem. You could say "gee, I really like that one tune that goes like that". However, with this record, about the only thing you can say is "gee, this song sounds a whole lot like the last one". Perhaps that's why the band didn't bother to title anything -- the whole of the record seems to exist as one dreamy, unfocused miasma, with no real starting or ending point. And yes, I realize that most of these songs actually had titles at one point or other in their respective existences. However, with only the album itself to go by, it's a moot point; the band has decided to present their material with no reference points whatsoever. If, as they probably intended, the music were good enough to speak for itself, this wouldn't really be a problem. However, it simply doesn't hold up under this sort of scrutiny, and we're left with an overblown, overhyped dreamy swirl of sound that can't commit itself to being anything, and is thus relegated to nothingness.