What can you say about a band whose singer is gay, blind in one eye and plays his guitar with a bow better than Jimmy Page did? What can you say about a band whose lyrics aren’t even lyrics, just random drawn out syllables?
What can you say about a band whose new album has an eight-page booklet of translucent paper yet not a word to be found on it, the cover, the spine, the back or the CD itself?
But wait, Sigur Ros ? Icelandic for “victory rose” ? are not some black turtleneck wearing, jaded, Icelandic intellectuals. Au contraire, they are a rather fun loving bunch of people who dress normally, even by American standards.
So where do they get off playing with a bow? Simply put, it was a matter of chance, and it works incredibly.
All at once singer and guitarist Jonsi Thor Birgisson’s use of the bow seems to take advantage of the full spectrum of sounds a guitar is capable of producing, creating a sound akin to an elephant and a vacuum in a wind tunnel
What about the “lyrics?” On their first album Birgisson simply used babble to come up with a vocal melody ? words to come later ? and ended up sticking with the babble.
On ( ), their third album, they have refined and mastered this technique.
Sigur Ros are not the first band to see vocals as something purely musical. After all, everyone went crazy for “Smells Like Teen Spirit” ? although Kurt Cobain’s lyrics were almost entirely unintelligible. Sigur Ros simply distill this idea and use it.
The music the vocals accompany suggests that actual words would not make the music as ethereal and embracing as it is. Lofty words there, but Sigur Ros are not trying to be lofty.
After the members did stints in a number of forgotten alternative bands, they came together without preconceived notions and generated their sound, an amalgamation of many chance happenings.
The lack of words anywhere merely emphasize that voice is only another instrument.
Sigur Ros are also aware of an oft-times overlooked idea ? an album is not complete until it is heard. They view their work as very open-ended and open to personal interpretation.
The listener is invited to hear whatever words in the “lyrics” they please, and write them down in the blank booklet ? or they can dismiss it as stupid. The band sees the validity of both sides.
Track one introduces the general sound of the album on a light-hearted note with the ebb and flow of organ, piano, strings, random weird droning noises, and Birgisson’s falsetto voice.
Track four suggests pure rapture with a slow, silenced drum beat, a chiming guitar riff, and interspersed children’s giggles. Birgisson seems to be sings lazily about something sweet and nostalgic.
The latter half of the album is comprised of moodier songs. Track eight is standout. It and its good sister, track four, masterfully integrate every unique element of Sigur Ros’ signature sound.
Track eight starts with a stern guitar melody with the sound of the bowed guitar lifting it in the air. Tired vocals, muffled drums, and piano join in taking the song along soaring ups and bottomless downs.
At the end it gains a juggernaut momentum ending the album on an incredibly frenzied, booming note.
No, rock is not dead! Don’t be fooled, Sigur Ros are not new age, prog rock, post rock, art rock, or space rock either.
However, they prove that there are alternatives in music that aren’t rap, country, or new age. What will make Sigur Ros a lasting band is that they stand outside all genres.