Of Monsters and Men‘s brass-bop ‘Little Talks’ was everywhere in 2011. You couldn’t turn on the radio and not hear it – it was used on tons of adverts and even had a version recorded in Simlish for the soundtrack of The Sims. It sold millions of copies and went Platinum around the world, their debut album ‘My Head Is an Animal’ duly doing the same. And it was unsurprising, as the Icelandic band had honed their gorgeous brand of folk-flecked indie pop, filled with buoyant brass and fizzing sing-a-long choruses.
In 2015 came their follow up album ‘Beneath the Skin’, which although receiving generally positive reviews, failed to emulate the huge levels of global success their debut garnered. Despite this, the band have remained low-key huge (in 2017 they became the first Icelandic band to hit one billion streams on Spotify).
Now, eight years on from their record-shattering first record, Of Monsters and Men are back with album number three, ‘Fever Dream’. This time around they’ve added more electric elements to the folk-flecked sound that broke them out. And at times it’s brilliant. Album opened ‘Alligator’ is a jubilant slice of roaring electronic rock that could have been a Chvrches single. This energy appears again in ‘Vulture, Vulture’, a stonking chunk of festival pop. And then there’s the lighter touch of ‘Ahay’, an emotive synth-heavy ballad, which blends gorgeous folky harmonies with soaring production.
But more often than not, ‘Fever Dream’ feels overdone and corny. The saccharine ‘Sleepwalker’ trundles along, with clichéd instrumentation that could have come from a Take That tune. Meanwhile, the sludgy ‘Stuck In Gravity’ is a weepy, future-rom-com-sound-tracking slow-burner that never reaches its climax. The new electronic elements feel overblown and trite, like the band were following the trend for the sake of it.
It’s frustrating, as Of Monsters and Men are clearly so capable of creating glorious tunes that are brimming with life, yet they seem to have resorted to mimicking a sound because its fashionable. Their clear talent is masked by trendy production and unimaginative writing. That’s not to say the album is bad, just disappointing as it feels like they have so much more to give. ‘Fever Dream’ is perfectly listenable, but missing the magic spark that made them smash successes when they first emerged.