Music Reviews
No Mythologies to Follow

No Mythologies to Follow

(Chess Club/RCA Victor) Rating - 8/10

During a couple of years that have been filled with excited chatter and even more excitable articles (suggesting that she’s probably more of a critics’ favourite than actual popstar, as of the moment at least), Danish singer (or Karen Marie Ørsted, as her passport has it) has been favourably compared to just about every young fashionable female singer going, as is usually the way. That is, until she recently went and spoiled it all by professing a deep-seated love for The Spice Girls.

Not that the influence is immediately apparent in her music, and yet it’s all anyone can talk about now – perhaps not helped by her most recent act of mass communication being her placing a cover of Say You’ll Be There on her Soundcloud page (it’s an interpretation that could be best described as "interesting"; thankfully it’s not included here, so we don’t have to discuss it any further). But then, with the fevered buzz around her, casual remarks in interviews currently have a lot of currency for  – a professed admiration for Diplo’s Major Lazer project resulted in the two hooking up to create what is now one of her signature tracks, XXX 88.

If comparison is to be made, (and it is), then it’s more useful to consider her fellow critical darling of Scandi-pop, Robyn. Like her, borrows from and reappropriates some of the more ferocious, swaggering aspects of popular music in a manner that’s as aggressive as it is impressive; what Robyn did with hip-hop, does with the likes of dancehall and dubstep, and the genre twistings that the latter includes – the trance-like moments of Fire Rides or Red in the Grey could have been something that Zomby would have turned out in one of his more reliable moments of retro rave reworking. There’s something brash and goofy about the massive horn riffs and self-hyping “Hey!”s and “Holla!”s that recur throughout the album, and something equally exciting and contemporary about the production that they bounce off of.

A more satisfying reading of those Spice Girls remarks is that it feeds nicely into her image, not just her chaotic, yet still slickly planned live shows, or the slight severity of her look, which could be described as a more threatening Mel C, but that the handmade glitter and marker pen scrawls that are evident in her cover designs and videos evoke the thrill of being a young pop fan, discovering music that’s very much “yours” for the first time and obsessively poring over it. Despite the occasional bit of explicit language or moments of being a tad too co-dependent, she’d make a fine choice for such devotion herself - as she declares proudly on Walk This Way: “All my life I step to the rhythm of the drummers inside my head”, which might not beat “girl power” in the catchy, put-it-on-a-t-shirt stakes, but is a good mantra nonetheless. 

As that fiercely iconoclastic title might suggest, there’s something quite defiantly adolescent about No Mythologies to Follow, and that’s meant as nothing but a compliment. What the album does exceptionally well is capture the sense of that age that everything is full of possibilities and that every emotion has to burn exceptionally bright; every bass rumble on the record feels like a stomach turning cartwheels out of excitement. Considering that the direct translation of her choice of stage name is the distinctly virginal “maiden”, and that she’s already released a track under that title (one which also accurately reflects the downside of that emotional exuberance - its sarcastic phrasings suggesting the intense boredom of youth), chronicling that tricky period between childhood and adulthood was very much a deliberate decision on her part. This is also expanded on in the production and arrangements – in terms of frequency, coming close behind MØ’s excitable yelp of a voice, and the big beats and brass parts, is the sound of the humble glockenspiel, which undercuts some of the more adult lyrics with a touch of naivety – while Never Wanna Know revisits the golden age of the teenager, being a relatively subdued and slightly sappy vintage rock ‘n roll ballad. It’s so subdued and sappy, in fact, that it seems uncannily incongruous in the album’s track listing as to be akin to that moment in Twin Peaks where drippy James, apropos of nothing, wetly attempted to simultaneously seduce both Donna and Maddy in the form of song (although, to be fair, it did prove that at least he was actually quite good at something other than looking unconvincing on a motorbike), and comes with a semi-spoken word section that not only sounds a fair bit like Lana Del Rey, but, like her work, is so over the top in its sincerity that it makes you wonder if MØ’s taking the piss a bit (all signs point to yes). 

From memory, such emotional ups and downs were pretty exhausting to live through - the repeated refrain of Don’t Wanna Dance runs “I’m on my own and I’m crazy for you”, and you sense that just might mean it – but considerably more fun for us to listen to now, culminating incredibly in Glass, whose glitchy electronics and transcendent afrobeat guitar riff careen wildly underneath the entirely fitting, if not entirely grammatically correct, battle cry “Why do everyone have to grow old?” until, as if the song can’t possibly contain the intensity of such feelings any longer, it burns itself out. It makes for an abrupt ending to the record, like emerging from an afternoon matinee blinking in the harsh sunlight, and suggests that the decisions that went into track sequencing were perhaps a little more idiosyncratic, or a little less considered, than most. 

Perhaps the Spice Girls’ influence is there after all, in the sense that No Mythologies to Follow isn’t necessarily an ‘album’ - a coherent statement that’s created from the careful placement and juxtaposition of tracks - but rather just a collection of songs, uniformly excellent to the extent that any of them sound like they could be singles. And maybe that’s because many of them already have been, as the record, coming at the end of an almost two year campaign, features seven previously released songs, which is quite some going considering there’s only 12 in total (the additional material of the expanded ‘deluxe’ edition wasn’t available for review). It’s a slightly disappointing development, as is the realisation that neither her nor regular collaborator Ronni Vindahl are that keen on pushing their sound into new directions – other than Never Wanna Know (previously featured in a supporting role on the Bikini Daze EP), only Slow Love attempts to interrupt the dominant sound of the album, living up to its title by seductively channelling Moroder-era Donna Summer in both sound and lyrical content.

On the other hand, the phrase “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” springs to mind, and such is the consistent quality of her output to date (the aforementioned cover excluded) that rather than feel ripped off, one might wonder if the scant sections of her discography to date that aren’t represented here deserved a place too. In other words, if No Mythologies to Follow is your first introduction to MØ (or if, at least, you haven’t been obsessively following her every utterance and upload to date) then you can go ahead and add an extra point to that score. Whether it’ll appeal to actual teenagers rather than those who are reduced to reflecting on their own adolescence through the dim glow of nostalgia is an interesting question, but either way, MØ might have just released the freshest, most joyful pop record of 2014 (even if we heard most of it in 2012-3).