Whenever someone hears that I’ve been to Iceland, invariably I get the same two questions immediately.
1. What possessed you to want to go there?
2. Have you ever met Björk?
The first one is generally easy to answer with the usual descriptions of the amazing scenery, friendly people, and how safe and easy to navigate Reykjavik is. Until last fall the answer to the second question was no. But after Airwaves 2012 it’s now a no with an asterisk. Since then I’ve been able to say truthfully that I’ve stood next to Björk at a concert, but we’ve never been formally introduced. That being said, it’s a small city – so running into her somewhere on a future trip is hardly out of the question.
I wrote about Björk’s early band Tappi Tíkarrass in a review of its only LP Mirnada, and also touched on them HERE and HERE. Suffice it to say that the band was formed when Björk was only around 16 or 17 and had just graduated from music school. She’d already gained some fame in her homeland, but Tappi Tíkarrass gave her the opportunity to break free of classical and cultural music to move into the evolving world of punk-new wave in the early 1980s.
Tappi Tíkarrass released their five song EP debut Bítið Fast Í Vítið (translated as Bite Hard Into Hell, which seems a bit extreme until you consider that the band’s name actually means “Cork the Bitch’s Ass” (I kid you not)) in 1982. Clocking in at under 13 minutes, it’s quick and to the point, and the point is punk… though to be fair, I think its a bit closer to the new wave side of the punk-new wave continuum.
Björk’s singing on Bítið Fast Í Vítið is actually pretty conventional for the era and genre. We only catch a few fleeting glimpses of the sound that she later cultivated and made her own. There isn’t any of the screaming or massive pitch changes that later came to define her style, and in fact I think she tried to keep her voice relatively low here. And I’ll let you in on a secret: It works. She has a beautiful voice, and I have no doubt she could have been massively successful with mainstream pop songs had she chosen that route. Fortunately for us she didn’t, and her body of work speaks to an artist evolving over time, and I think all of us are the better for it. There are lots of great female pop voices. There’s only one Björk.
Bítið Fast Í Vítið is gritty, early new wave, and 30 years later it still sounds great to my ears. The band is solid and Björk’s voice forces you to pay attention, especially on “London,” the opening track of side B, on which she does a little growling early on to grab you.
I generally don’t talk about the price of the records I write about here, but I will say that Bítið Fast Í Vítið is probably the most valuable one on my shelves… I certainly paid more for it than any of the others. Does that matter? Not really. It’s still just a record. But a pretty great one, I have to admit.