Well, having done the research, I’m warming to this Jonsi Birgisson — gay, blind in one eye, loves Iron Maiden, plays the guitar with a cello bow and sings, when the mood takes him, in a made-up language called “Hopelandic.” Yes, Jonsi’s all right with me. But his band Sigur Rós had me huffing and puffing a week ago Tuesday like some sort of enraged policeman. Bombastic washes of sound? Plinky-plonk nursery keyboards? And Jonsi’s emote-till-you-drop falsetto curling baroquely above it all? No, no, and no again.
I can see how a dose of this stuff might be indicated once in a while, if you’re sick of the post-punk thing and the metal thing and all things flat, callow, and stylized — if you long for drama and luxuriance, swollen hearts, the works. But in their way, these mood-based dynamics are just as played out. With each empty, breastbeating swell, we were washed further into some movieland cliché of significance, of “atmosphere” — soundtrack music, really. And the place was sold out! Small people with characterful faces flickered like goblins in the caverns and grottos of the Orpheum. Every song ended with a second of worshipful silence, a gulp of pure awe. “Iceland!” yelled some young darling. Yes, yes, Sigur Rós are from Iceland. And, in their vastness they partake of its elemental landscape. Their melodies rise like whale songs from the secret depths of existence, and so on. Old Jonsi stands high-shouldered, keening in his overripe manner, hunching over to give it a bit of cello bow on the guitar. The drummer bashes out a big-cymballed Godspeed You Black Emperor beat, the bass line grumbling beneath. The faces of film stars meet and kiss in the firmament. We swirl, we climb, we crest, we simmer to a finale. We will not make it home in time to watch Rollergirls.
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