I went a little overboard with my record shopping at Iceland Airwaves this year. And frankly, maybe a bit more than “a little.”
But I came home with a ton of great stuff, so it was worth the red spots on my shoulder from burst blood vessels caused by the hefty weight of my vinyl-filled carry-on bag. One of the items toward the top of my want list was Þeyr’s Life Transmission 7″, so I emailed around a bit before the trip and discovered that the newly opened Reykjavik Record Shop not only had a copy, but had one in the original custom plastic bag that featured the band’s name. It was the first thing I saw on the wall when I visited the shop and I made sure not to leave without it. That leaves the nearly impossible to find and super expensive Þagað Í Hel as the one missing piece of Þeyr vinyl on my shelves.
Þeyr is, to me, the most “Icelandic” band of them all. Yes, they incorporated elements of the punk/new wave scene swirling around in Europe during the late 70s/early 80s, but they added their own flourishes, their own sound elements, and their own sort of spiritual zen to the their music. It’s recognizable as fitting into a certain time and genre, but it stands apart from the crowd due to its uniquely Icelandic character. I love this band.
Unfortunately this copy didn’t come with the explanatory insert… but fortunately that info has been translated and is on Discogs. Life Transmission was dedicated to Ian Curtis of Warsaw/Joy Division, a band that obviously had a major influence on the band (and who had a song of their own called “Transmission”). They also made it clear that they resisted any categorization of the band and its music – they wanted to be accepted on their own terms for who they were. Noble, though probably a bit unrealistic.
While I know they said they didn’t want to be categorized or labeled, I’m going to do just that anyway. “Life Transmission” has a bit of an Oingo Boingo meets early Joy Division sound to it, a bit funky and bass-y, but with guitar strumming that takes it into a more new wave-y experimental place. The flip side gives us “Heima Er Bezt,” a track more weighted towards the music side of the spectrum, with the strange keyboard-sounding guitar sounds that appear in so much of Þeyr’s music.
I probably over romanticize Þeyr’s place in the Icelandic music pantheon – I mean, I’m not from there, and certainly wasn’t part of the scene when punk and new wave first broke on the mean streets of Reykjavik, so what do I know? Then again, Kimono just covered Þeyr on their newly released 7″ (review forthcoming), and they’re not the first band to cover the grandfathers of the scene. Regardless, it’s music that has held up over time and still has a unique feel to it, and that’s worth noting for a 33 year old record.