I’m getting to the last of the records I bought on our trip to Reykjavik about six weeks ago. Finally!
Here’s that pesky Bubbi Morthens again. The bottom line is you can’t talk about Icelandic pop and rock music in the 1980s (and probably the 90s as well) without Bubbi Morthens coming up at some point. He fronted a number of incredibly popular and influential bands like Utangarðsmenn, Das Kaptial, and Egó, plus he was prolific as a solo artist and working on joint projects with other musicians.
Morthens formed Egó after allegedly being fired from the Utangarðsmenn, and it didn’t take him long to show up his old bandmates. Egó’s 1982 debut Breyttir Tímar (Changing Time) was a mainstay at the top of the Icelandic charts and was one of the best selling albums ever by an Icelandic artist. I have to say after giving it a listen that it’s a solid album. The music could best be simply described as “rock”, though Morthens and the boys mix up the styles a bit. The title track actually remind me a lot of Icelandic metal masters HAM, not in that it’s a metal track but due tot he slowed down, plodding, ominous sound – about 10 seconds into hearing I was wondering if HAM possibly covered this song at some point because it sounded that familiar. The closing track, “Jim Morrison”, shares this heavy sound, while “Vægan Fékk Hann Dóm” is probably the hardest rocking cut on the record.
Immediately after listening to Breyttir Tímar I plopped Í Mynd on the platter. Impressively Egó released both these full length albums in the same calendar year, 1982, which is a good thing because they basically broke up shortly thereafter, but still fulfilled their contractual obligations to produce a third LP which came out in 1984. I don’t hear a lot of stylistic differences in the second album when compared to the first, though I was taken in by the last song on side A. It’s got a cool ska feel to it, and when I looked at the jacket to see the name I found, “Dancing Reggae With Death”. A closer listen and I suddenly realized this song was in English, the only song on these two albums that’s not in Icelandic. Which I think is just further proof that when I hear vocals, I generally focus on their sound and not the words, something that drives a lot of people I know crazy but probably explains why I don’t have any problems listening to music that’s not in English, whereas a lot of my friends really struggle with that. Regardless, “Dancing Reggae With Death” kicks ass and is a great song, and not because it’s in English.
Egó is good stuff, and it even got the Holly Seal of Approval. Bubbi Morthens is one of those talented musicians who is good enough and original enough that pretty much everything he puts out is at the very least decent, and often excellent. He’s still churning out solo material and appears to be collaborating with half of Iceland, which is great to see. I may have to track down some of his more recent solo work on our next trip and see what he’s up to these days.