They Eat Horses You know: A very quick (and frankly useless) guide to music videos made in Iceland….

06 Oct

First of all a big thanks to that total Icelandic music nutcase Wim Van Hooste, whose hard work over the years compiling all things good about Iceland has meant that my research into this piece barely lasted the length of a cup of tea…

yeah…. so, as many people who are ardent Iceland watchers will not have failed to notice, there seems to be something afoot in the alternative music scene at the moment. Over the couple of months, several music videos have been released that have used the “unspoilt” and “magical” Icelandic landscape as their setting. Iceland spotting in alternative music videos seem to be the in thing right now. My fellow bods at the Grapevine have chirped about this several times, and even fellow music writer Dr Gunni has put his tuppence worth.

Although it’s hard to put a concrete reason why, i feel the invisible hand of “Perspired by Iceland” is likely at play with all of this. If you don’t remember that, then this link will help jog those repressed memories.

So far this year we’ve had the likes of Mathilde FORGET;

Star FK Radium

Washed Out.

With regard to the local massive representation, we’ve got Mr Snorri Helgasson doing his own “aimless wandering in the wilderness” piece.

Now these are all well and good, but so far the grandaddy of them all is of course Bon Iver with the video to his latest single, “Holoscene”

I mean, look at it – it’s got everything a doughy hearted nu-age hipster could want!. Soft guitars and high-pitched vocals over Touristcore porn. A sweet blonde haired boy (in a nice tourist jumper natch) wakes up from his TURF HUT(!), whereupon he proceeds to skip and frolic over several hundred kilometres of prime tourist real estate in four minutes (The Glacier Lagoon,  Svartifoss, Landmannalaugar, etc) before ending up at the fabled black beaches around Vík. Wow – best tourist vid ever eh?

Now wait a minute. Where have i seen those beaches before….?

But hey, these places are popular. Even I’ve been to them!

Now of course it would be cheap of me to pour total scorn on all of this, especially when it comes to Icelandic artists making their music videos in Iceland (I know, the cheek of it eh?). The fact is is that the Icelandic Tourist Board have realised that they’re sitting on a very useful and valuable asset when it comes to a certain type of musician who likes to equate their music with nature, harmony and authenticity. And, like any good business entity, they’ve “sweated” said assets by persuading numerous production companies to make their films here. And let’s not forget, these videos market Iceland and bring tourists (especially those lovely alt-tourists who want to see elves and parts of Iceland that don’t have smelters, dams, or mountains of burning tyres) and their all-important hard currency that we need so much of right now.

But if you’re not careful managing said assets, then you could end up seeing it being to depreciate in value through overuse.  You’re obviously selling Iceland’s uniqueness to musicians, but in reality, how unique would your video be if everyone else started doing the same thing? And of course there’s the obvious matter that the location managers are being really fucking lazy by shooting all these videos at THE SAME 4 locations!

As one viewer stated in the comments section for the Washed Out video on YouTube:

“Thought the song was amazing when I first heard it a while back, but this video is really uninspiring, the years 2nd random montage video set in Iceland. Nabil’s video for Bon Iver is miles ahead of this, sadly”


Of course it wasn’t always like this. There have been other bands in the past who’ve used Iceland for their Videos. Artists such as Echo And the Bunnymen for example. But in their video for “the Cutter”, they don’t look cool and bohemian, just cold and bloody miserable…


Then of course you there was Janet Ellis’ daughter, Miss Sophie Ellis Bextor. although in her video for “Today the Sun’s On Us”, she has forsaken the usual Icelandic landscape montage, instead tapping into the 2007 pre-crash mentality of shallow poise, loveless rutting between  people who don’t care for each other, Range Rovers, fancy restaurants, high-end fashion and hair styles, disposable wealth and Björn Hlynur Haraldsson acting like a stereotypical Icelandic man (i,e, a total dickhead to women).



So have there been ANY decent videos made using Icelandic scenery? Well, there have been a couple of real note. Take this one by Sin Fang for “Because Of The Blood”, where he simply skateboards down Reykjavík, before setting fire to stuff and tripping balls while wearing a doily for a beard, all the while at a black beach that ISN’T at Vík.


But my personal fave has to be the one for Gus Gus’s “Thin Ice” which takes place in my old manor of Breiðholt, Iceland’s own true ghetto. Concrete. Snarling, disinterested teenagers. Shitty convenience stores. Smelly, creepy middle-aged depressives. Grey skies. Trash everywhere. and Daniel Águst wearing leather riding boots. People, THIS is the real Iceland. Take it all in.

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Posted by on October 6, 2011 in Iceland, music, Uncategorized, Video


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