A long time ago, in a blog post far, far away (September 2012) I wrote about the album Mjötviður Mær by Icelandic new wavers Þeyr, one of the first “important” Icelandic records I ever bought. That seemed cool enough to earn it a spot as the first record I ever reviewed on this blog, for whatever that’s worth. It’s a great album, way out there and different, and its uniqueness is one of the things that attracted me to it.
Now, I knew there were two different albums with the same cover, differentiated only by their titles at the very top – Mjötviður Mær from 1981 and As Above from 1982. It was my understanding that As Above was nothing more than an English language version of the original release, but it turns out that’s only partially, sorta true. When a copy of As Above showed up on eBay recently from an American seller at a reasonable price, I figured I’d pick up this “version” to go with my original Icelandic release. But it didn’t take too much digging to figure out that these two albums are not, in fact, the same. Not quite.
As Above comes with a big poster insert as well as a lyric sheet (see photo), so should you find a copy at some point make sure those are included, otherwise you need to take a hard look at the price. As for the music, best I can tell eight of the 12 songs appear on both albums, with the versions on As Above all having been re-recorded in English with the exception of “Wolf”, which has Icelandic lyrics on the insert and appears to be the same as the original version from Mjötviður Mær, called “Úlfur” on that album. The other four songs include what I think is a new track, “Killer Boogie”, along with a few tracks that appeared on other singles/10″ers. The band’s Wikipedia page does a decent job breaking down a bit of this, though it indicates “Are You Still There” is a version of a song originally called “Tedrukkinn” on Mjötviður Mær. Which is fine. Except there is no song called “Tedrukkinn” on that album. Confused yet? Good. Because so am I.
Holly’s friend Matt actually remembers seeing an add that included this album cover back in the early 80s, either in a magazine or inserted inside a different record. I originally thought this was odd, but once I realized that As Above was an English release it made a lot more sense. Needless to say he thought it was cool when we burned a copy of Mjötviður Mær for him and he finally got to hear that album with the cover of an album by a band who’s name he didn’t know that had stuck with him for three decades. Mystery solved. For my next trick I’ll work on the disappearance of D.B. Cooper, or at least come up with a playlist of songs that D.B. would have had on his iPod if they had existed back in 1971.
As Above is a great way to approach Þeyr on vinyl given its relatively reasonable price, distribution outside of Iceland, and English lyrics (of course, for my Icelandic friends I’m sure you’ll content yourself with the original, in Icelandic, thank you very much!). The songs are great and the style is something way out there, sort of avant garde new wave, almost like like Þeyr were trying to unintentionally develop their own new genre. If you run across a copy on eBay, do yourself a favor and pick it up.