At first listen, Bang Gang’s Bardi Johannsson seems to present himself as a disciple of Radiohead’s OK Computer, favoring spacious and dramatic arrangements, creating rock music at its most dramatic. Yet the longer one listens, the more apparent it is that Johannsson is actually channeling the proto-Radiohead, Pink Floyd. Even the bare backside of the lady gracing the cover of Something Wrong is reminiscent of the nude on Roger Waters’ The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking. The primary difference between Bang Gang and Pink Floyd, however, is that Bardi Johannsson knows when to let a song run its course, keeping most songs at a manageable three or four minutes long.
Bang Gang’s Something Wrong isn’t exactly a bite-sized Dark Side of the Moon, but the Icelandic outfit’s sound has a similarly psychedelic haze to it, awash in a celestial glow and at times, floating aimlessly in melancholy. That said, it’s quite good. Wading through the slow burn of the first two tracks takes a bit of patience, as few of Bang Gang’s songs really rock out or rise above a plodding pace. But even with a slow and steady approach, the album treads toward accessibility, each song a tuneful and gorgeous nugget. The title track is the first instance of viable singles material, layering fuzz guitar on top of a Zero 7 like trip-hop sound, making for a catchy yet dreamy standout.
On “It’s Alright,” Johannsson masks his voice with vocoder for a trippy jaunt into smoky balladry. But Nouvelle Vague’s Phoebe Tolmer takes the mic on lullaby “There Was a Whisper,” just one of several collaborations with noteworthy vocalists here. Keren Ann lends her talents to the jazz-tinged “Forward and Reverse,” and Daniel Agust of Gus Gus croons over the sultry “In the Morning.” Yet, nice as these tracks all are, a more upbeat single like “Find What You Get” is that much more inviting for breaking up the dark, ethereal numbers and allowing the listener to energize before delving into another handful of soporific ballads. Johannsson’s cover of “Stop in the Name of Love” accomplishes a similar feat, though its inclusion here is a little curious, given that a lighthearted cover almost doesn’t fit in alongside the other space-rock here.
As much as Bang Gang seems to channel Waters’ stoned space-outs of yore, there’s something about Something Wrong that lends it more to smoky dive bars than laser shows. It’s a sophisticated, minor key wonder, and unlike Floyd, Bang Gang’s wintry chill is unmistakably Icelandic.
Zero 7 – When It Falls
Elbow – Leaders of the Free World
Lady & Bird – Lady & Bird
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.