Reykjavik Grapevine: Album Reviews: Helgi Jónsson, “Big Spring”

11 Apr

Towards the end of the year, I reviewed the current album from Helgi Hrafn Jónsson for the Grapevine, which had been gathering dust for a little while now, until they placed it online yesterday, so now you can read it all for yourself.

Interestingly, when it was posted i was actually reading an article linked by my friend Alex titled WHAT MAKES MUSIC BORING?, namely that if there is a piece of music that you find boring, then it is more likely down to you, and how when music is described as boring, it’s often used as a proxy way to describe the listeners and fans of the artist.

I tohught of this because i found “Big spring”, a pile of turgid, half-baked crap. And BORING at that as well. I’M sure that many people will find it great, and good luck to them with that, but as i was asked to give my opinion on this, then that’s what i gave.

Let me explain. The biggest issue i had with the album, even more than the music, was with the lyrics.  Now lyrics can be a really tricky thing at the best of times. Sometimes you can some truly lyrical moments in music (most of The Smiths, the Pet Shop Boys, Eminem, Tori Amos, etc,etc,etc),  or you can have abstract, but still excellent moments (Nirvana, John Lydon’s early stuff with PiL’s, The Fall, etc, etc). But a lot of the lyrics here are such pretentious nonsense i don’t know where to start at time.

But if i had to start, then let’s take the opening song “Salt”. It passes itself off as a song about the power and complexities of the love that two people show for one another. The first verse reads;

She slipped a note under my door

One evening

I was already fast asleep

Of what it read i’m pretty sure the meaning

Described her fragile love for me

Ok so far so… hmm. He’s fast asleep when the person who loves him slips a note under his door, professing her “Fragile” love for him. This isn’t awful, but to be honest, do these two love each other? If they do, then why is she slipping notes under his door? Perhaps some crippling shyness of something similar is at issue here. But it’s the 1st verse, so lets run with this and look at the second verse.

It read:

“The melting point of salt is 800 degrees

But drop it in a glass of water

and you lose it instantly

It’s simple chemistry

And so it is with you and me…”

Right, here we have a classic example of someone who is trying to show how clever they are by using a “Complex” metaphor from looking up a fun science fact and shoehorned it into the song. The problem with this though is when you don’t really know your subject matter well enough for it actually work. Despite what he says, having a melting point of 800 celsius doesn’t show fragility, in fact that’s fairly extreme for a compound. Granted only science geeks will pick up on this (they will tell you salt has weak iconic bonds, but that means that it’s a strong electrolyte!), but it’s just blatant songwriting posturing as far as I’m concerned.

Let’s look at the next verse….

I didn’t know how to reply

I waited until i knew what to say

The days and weeks and months went by until i made it

To send a note the other way.

Think about it. You’re a woman who loves a guy, but in a “fragile” way. Said guy is aware of this fragile love. So what does he do? he waits MONTHS before he pens an actual reply to your note! Think about that. you’re laying yourself on the line emotionally speaking in making the first move, despite exhibiting some kind of confidence/shyness issue with the way you’ve professed your love for him. But what happens when you don’t get a reply back? That just means social suicide!  How can you look this person in the eye when you next see him? He knows how you feel and he doesn’t reply? NOOOOO! The amount of time he’s taken to think up his answer, she’s probably topped herself, her self-worth being shattered because he couldn’t be arsed to give her a reply, ANY reply. The dick!

Unless she’s a perfectly normal, well-adjusted person, whereupon having not gotten a reply, she’ll simply go “What’s his problem? Fuck him!”, and the song pretty much ends there.

But wait! There’s more! We have his reply that took him months to pen and get back to her.

It said:

“The distance to the stars you’ll never understand

But you know exactly where they are 

For this astronomy

Was always meant to be 

And so it is with you and me….” 

What…. that’s it???? That’s what took you months to think up and reply back to her with??? This guy is certainly no Wordsworth. First of all, “The distance to the stars you’ll never understand.” How fucking condescending is that? You could have said something like “They are so hard to understand,” because hey, Astrophysics can be a difficult thing for people to grasp. But no, he is saying directly that she can’t understand it.

What he’s really saying is that she doesn’t have the brains to understand what a light year is but HE does! Now, If i was writing a love note like this to Mrs Sex Farm when i was wooing her, i can safely guarantee that i would end up with a swift kick to the balls for being such a tactless jerk, and she wouldn´t be happily married to me, making my sandwiches.

Basically what he have here is a tale of two emotionally stunted individuals, who love each other but express it in the most convoluted and haughty way possible, and while they apparently love each other, when one finally makes the effort to announce said love, the other one then waits forever to announce his love for her! Truly a love song for our times.

I give it 6 months….

Other examples? How about the opening verse to “Lonely Birds”

Little birds are the last to fly

Just because they’re afraid to die

This is true, I have seen it in their eyes

In the pet shop

Nuff said really.

As for the music, well i certainly did think it was boring, aimless stuff. Here are 3 tracks for you listen and take stock before you consider buying.

Note – I actually think I remember seeing this guy off venue at last year’s Airwaves festival. It was on a Saturday Off-Venue at Kaffibarinn where i was with my Brother and another friend. By this time of the festival, the first signs of fatigue were beginning to show a little and we were a little “emotional”, but when we arrived at the K-Bar, there were some nice beats playing and we chatted and nodded our heads sagely to the music. But the next thing we knew, the beats suddenly stopped and several guys with instruments crammed into half the bar (i had the end one guitar shoved right up my nose while they played), and proceeded to play some really bland, wimpy guitar rock. We all simply looked at each other, thought “fuck this,” and left. The music was Helgi and his band.

So yes, you can say that I’m not a fan… Oh well….


Posted by on April 11, 2012 in Iceland, literature


Tags: , , , , ,

2 responses to “Reykjavik Grapevine: Album Reviews: Helgi Jónsson, “Big Spring”

  1. Daniel

    April 28, 2012 at 4:42 am

    This review reads like the diary entry of a whiny 13 year old girl…

  2. Johannes

    October 14, 2014 at 10:43 pm

    What lovely lyrics. Surely they don´t reflect everyday rational behavior. That would make it a description of ordinary live, not a piece of lyrics and thus of art. Whatever art is, it is distinguishable from ordinary everyday life, making use of imagination, creativity, irrationality, metaphors, generally aspects of live which are out of the ordinary. To review lyrics or art according to what would be normal behavior is to not have a clue about art.
    And if we are to look into the details. Well the lyrics does not suggest that having a melting point of 800 celsius is a sign of fragility, but that being easily dissolved in water is so. Which i definitely would agree with.


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