“We aren’t really walking on glaciers on an everyday basis,” remarked Arni Teitur Asgeirsson during one interview that occurred shortly after Worm is Green’s intoxicating Automagic was released. This was in response to the commonly held observation (including that of this writer) that the album’s atmospherics evoked the feeling of Iceland’s stunning landscape and its climate in microcosm form, somehow distilling the country’s essence into sounds on a compact disc. It’s a fair enough comment, and perhaps led to the band’s change in direction for follow-up album Push Play.
The cover art alone hints at very different content within: a fragile, disjointed robot with a “left red eye” stands surrounded by stark white—almost the conceptual opposite of the blurred pseudo-landscape of its predecessor; and, to some extent, the album’s contents follow suit. Although the band hasn’t entirely broken free from its past—Múm-like electronic flicks, clicks and burps and glittering synth lines pervade many of Push Play’s eleven tracks—the album feels more worldly-wise and cosmopolitan, and, to some extent, more commercial than its forerunner.
A penchant for fairly down-tempo, chill-out, electronic compositions—often dark and quirky in equal measure—is still evident, but nowhere on Automagic would there have been room for the perfect slice of electro-pop that is Electron John, which in a fairer world would be bothering the top of the charts, replacing the non-entity vacuous pop that tends to prevail these days. In fact, Electron John begins a trio of near-perfect moments on the album, highlighting the increasingly song-based approach that the band now appears to be taking. There’s a greater emphasis on lyrics this time round, and they are often tongue-in-cheek, seemingly referencing the cyborg-like nature of the electronic music composer (and also, perhaps, modern-day music consumers); witness, for example, The Pop Catastrophe: “He’s a pop catastrophe from a strange factory/He’s created to succeed/He’ll be sedated by the beat,” and “Listen to the synthesiser: it’s attached to his waist/With speakers in his chest, his heart plays a song”. Intriguing, original and sometimes even moving, this combination of enthralling vocals (led by Vilberg Rafsteinn Jonsson in fine form) complimenting strong, rich compositions of electronics, guitars and clattering drums, continues apace with the fantastic You’re Too Late, Satan: “What to do/The one you want is lost/My soul is gone, far away from you and me/I’m sorry, but I can’t help you since the great escape/I can’t even feel it since the great escape”.
Occasionally, a chillier, spacey vibe returns to the band’s compositions: the likely knowingly titled “Infected by Nature” recalls Automagic’s instrumentals, perhaps providing an indication of how a synæsthete would experience Iceland’s raw landscape; but, by and large, Push Play is a “city” album: This Time is all awkward guitar, in-your-face rhythms and booming bass, as seemingly played to an audience of head-bobbers in a small, smoky club, and it perhaps contains the most autobiographical message on the album: “This is the time for us to start again,” and “This is the time for us to reunite/This is the time for us to start a fight”. The battle continues throughout, from the emotionally charged lead track, Army of Them, through to the 11-minute Push Play, which closes out the album, with tuneful vocal harmonies settling over a kind of Worm is Green signature backing track. It’s a battle for a band to evolve, to keep itself fresh, and to avoid being pigeon-holed and stereotyped, while also retaining an individual identity and remaining true to itself. And it’s a battle to create a slice of evocative, charged and engrossing music, full of emotion, engaging sounds and multi-layered stories, all of which leaves you wanting more. Push Play succeeds on all counts.
Worm is Green
Push Play (2006)
Record Label: Dennis