Purrkur Pillnikk (translation: Sleepy Chess Player. Seriously) wasn’t the first punk band in Iceland, though they were certainly one of the most influential. Two members went on to be part of The Sugarcubes, and Einar Orn also put in time with KUKL and most recently the industrial powerhouse Ghostigital.
Is Purrkur Pillnikk punk, or is it new wave? Those were tough distinctions to make in 1981, probably nowhere more so than in Iceland, an isolated country with very limited access to music from the rest of the world. Ehgji en sort of walks in the no-man’s-land between the two genres, and you can almost see the transition take place over the course of the album. With 17 songs packed on the LP, what you get are short bursts of creative energy. And while I don’t speak Icelandic, that doesn’t detract from the overall experience, with the vocal cadence acting almost as a completely separate instrument. But then again, it means I can’t read the lyric sheet included inside the LP sleeve. On pink paper. Which is not very punk rock. Does the use of pink paper in and of itself move this album to the new wave side of the line? I don’t know. But it is pretty.
I was fortunate enough to track down an copy of this on vinyl while in Reykjavik in 2011, coming across it at Lucky Records (thanks to my main-man Ingvar). Unlike most early Icelandic bands, you can actually pick these guys up on iTunes, with a 44-song compilation of their complete catalog running you a pretty reasonable $19.99. I mean, it doesn’t sound as awesome as it does on vinyl, with all the pops and crackles, but it’s a really great primer into the early Icelandic punk/new wave scene, and is absolutely worth checking out. Not to mention probably cheaper (and more convenient) than buying it on vinyl, assuming you can even find it outside of Europe. But then again, if you buy the mp3 you won’t get this sweet album cover of some dude holding a sheep over his head, which is pretty damn cool. Unless you’re the sheep.