Sound — 9
"Songs like this can drive a man insane," sings Ornelius Mugison on "Sad As A Truck," a deliriously shredded piece of dada-pop that sits dead-center on Mugimama, Is This Monkey Music? And though this line is delivered with typically exaggerated carny theatricality, there's little on the Icelandic one-man band's third album that enables listeners to dismiss the lyric's sentiment entirely. On his exceptional 2003 debut Lonely Mountain, Mugison brought various streams of bedroom folk, junkyard experimentation, and haphazard electronic pop into some form of unruly convergence. Unfortunately, on Mugimama this prospective unification seems frustratingly distant, as Mugison appears determined to keep the toys from his assorted sandboxes carefully separated, resulting in an occasionally brilliant yet disjointed stylistic grab-bag.
Lyrics — 8
Another two of the album's highlights, "2 Birds" and "I'd Ask," will sound instantly familiar to any attentive Mugison fans, since variants of each also appeared on his 2004 release Niceland. On these tracks, with his girlfriend Rna pitching in on additional vocals, Mugi performs with an almost alt-country earthiness, his voice carrying a rather uncanny likeness to Will Oldham circa Arise, Therefore. This rusticity is further amplified on the piano-based "What I Would Say In Your Funeral," on which he and Rna wittily exchange elegies like "I would tell 'em how I never liked you at all the way you made me sleep on the wet spot."
Overall Impression — 10
Mugimama runs itself into trouble, however, in its abrupt segues from these placidly homespun tracks to the jarringly sharp edges of hyperactive pieces like the aforementioned "Sad As A Truck" or the woozy electronic burble of "The Chicken Song," whose lyrics again feature Mugi and Rna trading oddball non-sequiters in wild near-whispers ("I want to be intellectual... I'm not a vegetarian/But I like sitting in the grass/I don't like them thongs/But I love tits and ass") before Mugi makes with a couple Princely howls. Though not without their entertainment value, these songs (as well others like the silly mouth-farting exercise "Swing Ding") sound like stowaways from different albums, bearing as much resemblance to their counterparts here as giraffes do to pack mules. And as the album comes to a close with the goofy harmonica breakdown "Afi Minn," one has to wonder, as sporadically delightful as Mugimama can be, what new ground Mugison has actually here gained.