The problem with Norwegians is that they are so relentlessly, mind-numbingly pleasant. Well, OK, not Knut Hamsun or Vidkun Quisling. And probably not the deranged fascist murderer Anders Breivik either. But then maybe that’s what unrestrained, suffocating niceness does to a certain kind of person: they end up strapping on a machine gun, or yearning for Hitler. Or both.
Kings of Convenience are two earnest and very pleasant youngish men who often wear nice jumpers. They come from Bergen, which is as pristine and congenial a city as you could wish for: sharp, clear northern air and wooden-framed houses filled with agreeably plain furniture. Oh, and fish everywhere.
Erlend Oye and Eirik Boe were part of the limp-wristed ‘nu-folk' stuff which came out in the first decade of this century. Their first album was very pleasant. So is this, murderously so — their fourth offering in 20 years. Nicely picked guitars, the occasional minimalist piano motif or plangent violin. Often these songs are set to a jaunty bossa-nova rhythm; polite jazz textures and minor key harmonies in which decent, literate sentiments are expressed about women. They are a bit like Simon and Garfunkel with the rough edges worn off. Yes, that is a joke. Simon and Garfunkel never had any rough edges. ‘It’s not true what they say about you… I know you as generous and kind,’ Oye whines like an incel on ‘Rumours’. There is a song about a washing machine (which they rhyme with ‘self-esteem’). They make the Cardigans seem like AC/DC. But then, to set against that is the beautiful melody of ‘Comb My Hair’. And the fact that having heard the album, I bought it.