Formed in 1981, Tappi Tíkarrass is perhaps best well know (by people who’ve even heard of them at all) as rock trivia, because their 15-year-old female lead singer later went on to be pretty famous in the music world. You may have heard of her. Her name is Björk, and she’s arguably the most well-known export to ever come out of Iceland, along with wool sweaters, banking collapse, and Brennivín.
“Tappi Tíkarrass” literally translates to “cork the bitch’s ass,” and if that wasn’t pretty punk rock for 1979 I don’t know what is. Björk actually replaced the band’s original lead singer, Eyþór Arnalds, though Arnalds’ vocals still appear on two tracks on Miranda. Released in 1983, Miranda was the band’s only full-length release, following on the heels of 1982s Bítið Fast í Vítið EP and the popularity gained by the band and their captivating lead singer from the contemporary Icelandic music documentary Rokk í Reykjavík (which generated an amazing double album soundtrack… but more on that on another day). Both Tappi Tíkarrass albums were on my want list when I went to Reykjavik last November, and I found this copy at, of all places, the city flea market. It wasn’t cheap, but I thought I got a decent price since the record was in nice shape and the insert was still inside. It’s probably the most expensive single record in my collection, and it’s a legitimate rarity with only around 1,500 copies produced. I’ve seen it sell online in the $125-175 range (I got mine for a little bit less), and even the out-of-print bootleg CDs command a decent price.
Right now you might be thinking to yourself, “why is this important? I don’t even like Björk.” And that’s a reasonable question. It took me a long time to kinda-sorta get on the Björk train, and I’d hardly say that I like all her stuff. That being said, having listened to more of her early music with bands like Tappi Tíkarrass, KUKL, and The Sugarcubes, I’ve come to the conclusion that she is both advanced (using the Jason Hartley Advanced vs. Overt criteria) and a musical genius. Which doesn’t mean I like everything she does. Hell, I don’t even understand Biophilia… but that kind of proves my point. I don’t think she’s crazy. I think she just operates on a totally different wavelength than the rest of us.
But back to Miranda. This album is a great showcase for Björk’s singing, with her amazing range and ability to convey tremendous emotion that is clear even though the vocals are in Icelandic. Even without knowing the words, there’s a lot of power in this music. While the band’s EP was more punk than their LP that came out just a year later, Miranda remains a punk album (with tinges of new wave for flavor) in that it seems to break all the rules about how popular music at the time should sound. It’s hard to wrap your head around. It’s certainly more melodic and structured than what their contemporaries in Þeyr were putting out, and less straight ahead punk than Purrkur Pillnikk, but frankly blows past both of them into new, more approachable territory. The band broke up the same year Mirnada was released, with Björk joining members of Purrkur Pillnikk and Þeyr (interesting that all three bands imploded around the same time) to form KUKL, a difficult-to-like band that put out two disjointed, challenging albums before fracturing and spinning off some members to form The Sugarcubes.
There isn’t much point in going through this song by song – I can’t understand the words anyway. Miranda is an album that begs to be listened to from start to finish, allowing you to follow Björk on the adventure she wants to take you on. Unfortunately it’s a tough one to track down. That being said, it’s one of the few albums in that price range I’ve ever heard that I’d say is worth the price strictly for the music that’s on it. Björk sings as beautifully on this album as anyone I’ve ever heard, and with a strong band behind her she’s that much more impressive.