Bubbi Morthens has a long and distinguished history in the Icelandic music scene. Sometimes it seems like it’s actually harder to find a group he wasn’t involved in. Utangarðsmenn (“Outsiders” in English) was one of his earliest bands, and also one of the most successful, playing some large shows in Iceland as well as opening for the Clash.
Released in 1980, “Geislavirkir” is a different example of Icelandic new wave, with a heavy dose of reggae influence (there’s even a track titled “Chinese Reggae”). When I first put this vinyl on the turntable at Lucky Records, I wasn’t particularly impressed. I was on the hunt for Icelandic punk and new wave, and this really has a different sound and tone to it, which was not what I was looking for. Fortunately Ingvar insisted that I needed this album, and the price was right, so I picked it up. Thank you, Ingvar, because “Geislavirkir” has some great music on it.
With 14 tracks, “Geislavirkir” is a fairly substantial album though it still clocks in at a relatively tight 36 minutes. And some of it is in English… it’s unusual in that it has songs in both Icelandic and English, something I generally haven’t seen in my (admittedly limited) experience with Icelandic bands, especially from this era. It’s hard to describe in terms of a style. The release year certainly puts it in the midst of the punk/new wave era, and certainly a lot of punk (especially from England) had reggae influences. But like many Icelandic bands, Utangarðsmenn take it in sort of a different direction. There are some hard numbers here, along with some that are slower. There’s even a 50’s-style rocker. Personally, I even hear a little early Blue Oyster Cult in the style, but maybe that’s just me. Their follow-up LP, Í Upphafi Skyldi Endinn Skoða, includes a cover of The Stooges “I Wanna Be Your Dog”, which gives us a little more insight into their influences.
There actually is an Utangarðsmenn album, their self-titled release from 1994, available on iTunes, and it includes at least a few tracks from this record (“Hiroshima” and “Tango”). Go check out the samples and see what you think. Utangarðsmenn may just expand your musical tastes.