Bootlegs – “Bootlegs” (1990)

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a month since I last posted about an Icelandic album.  That may be some kind of record or something (no pun intended).

bootlegs

I ordered this copy of Bootlegs’ self-titled 1990 release a few months ago, and unfortunately not only did it get sort of lost in the mail for a while, but when it finally did manage to reach my porch… it was left out in the rain and got totally soaked.  Fortunately the vinyl was fine, and the jacket actually dried out pretty well, but still… pissed me off royally.

I was excited to give this a listen, as I’m a big fan of the thrash sound of the band’s 1988 debut W.C. Monster.  I got a bit nervous when I heard the opening track, though, which seems a bit soft, but it turns out Bootlegs were trying to lull me before hitting me between the eyes with “Óljóslega Stjórnlaus.”  From there the band bounces around a bit, always playing metal, but at varying speeds and levels of intensity.  “Eymd” is arguably their most thrash number, one that reminds me of early Kill ‘Em All era Metallica, with perhaps a dash of Suicidal Tendencies thrown in for good measure.  On the B side “Tippikal” is a great blend of hair-metal-meets-Judas-Priest, making it one of my favorite tracks on the album.

This was the last Bootlegs release for a while.  In fact, as near as I can tell it was the last one for 25 years until they put out a new CD in 2015 called Ekki Fyrir Viðkvæma.  I don’t review CDs too often, but I may need to make an exception for that one, because it’s pretty outstanding.  So stay tuned, my friends…

The Best of 2015

Man, 2015 was an absolutely fantastic year.  Holly and I got to do some traveling, going to Portland (OR) and Salt Lake City to see concerts, doing some record shopping in Ireland and Paris, and of course attending our seventh consecutive Iceland Airwaves Music Festival.  We went to shows with friends, listened to new music, and discovered new bands.  So with all that in mind, here’s a recap of Life in the Vinyl Lane’s musical year.

Top 5 New Releases in 2015

1.  Halleluwah – Halleluwah
2.  Lífsins Þungu Spor – Dulvitund
3.  .A:A. Mix. 1 – Alexandra Atnif
4.  II – Albino Father
5.  Grey Tickles, Black Pressure – John Grant

halleluwahcd

A lot of great music came out in 2014, and I had a hard time whittling down my initial list of a dozen albums to pick the Top 5.  In fact I thought I had my list ready to go until I played Lífsins Þungu Spor for the first time about two weeks ago, and it actually bumped another album off of the list.  I was confident in my choice of Halleluwah for the top spot because I’ve been playing their debut (not available on vinyl at this time) a ton, and it’s actually the second time they’ve made my year end best of list, with their 10″ K2R (which stylistically is miles away from Halleluwah) held down the #4 spot on my 2012 list.  Dulvitund, Alexandra Atnif, and Albino Father were all performers I encountered for the first time in 2015, and John Grant rounds it out with his second appearance on one of my Top 5 New Releases lists.

I’m particularly happy with this list because, unintentionally, all the performers fall into different genres.  Halleluwah brings a sort of old school popular music sound, something that reminds me of an updated version of Edith Piaf; Dulvitund is electro darkwave; Alexandra Atnif creates some edgy experimental industrial beats; Albin Father is the second coming of garage psych rock; and of course John Grant is John Grant in all of his loquacious brilliance.  There’s something for just about everyone on that list.

Top 5 “New to Me” Bands/Performers

1.  Alexandra Atnif (US/Romania)
2.  No Stayer (US)
3.  Captain Moonlight (Ireland)
4.  SGNLS (US)
5.  Kælan Mikla (Iceland)

atnifconstableflavour

This was a super-tough list for me this year.  The first two choices were easy.  We discovered Atnif this summer when we picked up one of her split tapes at Amoeba down in Los Angeles, and acquired two more of her cassettes over the course of the year.  She’s super talented and isn’t afraid to experiment with some very severe sounds.  No Stayer also came to me via a cassette (Rogue) when my friends over at Philadelphia’s Sit & Spin Records sent it my way.  I was down with their style of hard rock/metal, but then sort of forgot about them for a bit before re-discovering them on my iPod a few weeks back, and I’ve pretty much been listening to them every day since.  Captain Moonlight’s working class, Irish-issues-themed hip hop was a refreshing return of hip hop to being social protest music.  I enjoyed SGNLs synth punk enough to pick up two of their records this year, SGNLS and II (not to be confused by the Albino Father album of the same name).  Kælan Mikla was sort of a darkwave dark horse on this list, because they don’t currently have any physical releases (though they do have a track on Iceland Whatever, Vol. 1), but I was very impressed by their live show at Airwaves and can’t stop thinking about them.

Top 5 Vinyl Purchases

1.  Philly’s Dopest Shit, Vol. 1 – Various
2.  Lengi Lifi – HAM
3.  Hype! Boxed Set – Various
4.  W.C. Monster – Bootlegs
5.  Great White Wonder – Les Rallizes Denudes

suicidebongphillysdopest

OK, I’m cheating a bit here, because my top choice is a cassette, and my #2 pick is a CD.  But both of those were important additions for me this year.  Philly’s Dopest Shit turned me on to a ton of great bands like No Stayer, SGNLS, Ruby Buff, and Spent Flesh.  Lengi Lifi is a very difficult to find, CD-only HAM live album and was the last one I needed to complete the HAM discography.  The Hype! Boxed Set was an opportunity for me to reconnect with some great Sub Pop 7″ records and exorcise those demons that still haunt me after selling my Sub Pop singles 20 years ago.  W.C. Monster is a collectible Icelandic thrash record, while the Great White Wonder box set is just a flat-out psych noise trip from Japan’s Les Rallizes Denudes.

Top 5 Live Shows

1.  The Kills – Roseland Theatre, Portland OR
2.  Bubbi & DIMMA – NASA, Reykjavik
3.  Bo Ningen – KEX Hostel, Reykjavik
4.  The Sonics – Easy Street Records, Seattle
5.  Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Pioneer Park, Salt Lake City UT

thekillslive

This is the second consecutive year that The Kills (right) have taken the top spot in my Top 5 Live Shows, and I kind of feel like any year that I see them live, they’ll probably be my number one pick – they’re quite simply that damn good.  At Airwaves the combination of Bubbi Morthens and DIMMA was a perfect blend of old school punk rock and new school technical metal, while Bo Ningen played the most insane, high energy set of crazy that I’ve ever seen.  Easy Street Records crammed 200 people into their shop for show benefitting KEXP radio, and The Sonics played along with a veritable who’s who of Seattle rockers, including Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder.  And BRMC… well, they’d been at the top of my list of bands I wanted to see for years and years, and this summer we were able to use some airline points to basically get down to Salt Lake City for free to see them live, and they were outstanding.

This was probably the toughest list for me to put together, because we saw so many great shows this year.  Agent Fresco, Hot Chip, Thievery Corporation, Steel Panther, HAM, Halleluwah… there were just so many awesome performances to choose from.  But the five that made the final cut all had something special about them that took them to that next level and made them more memorable.

Top 5 Favorite Places to Buy Records

North America
1.  Easy Street, Seattle
2.  Silver Platters, Seattle
3.  Diabolical, Salt Lake City
4.  Fingerprints, Long Beach (CA)
5.  Amoeba, Los Angeles

The Rest of the World
1.  Lucky Records, Reykjavik
2.  Reykjavik Record Shop, Reykjavik
3.  Bell, Book & Candle, Galway (Ireland)
4.  Syncrophone, Paris
5.  All City, Dublin

luckyorangebox

Easy Street and Silver Platters are my regular local haunts, so it will be hard for them to ever get knocked out of the top spots.  The same is true for Lucky and Reykjavik Record Shop – any year that we make it to Reykjavik, these two are likely to be at the top of list.  One thing that all these places have in common is that they’re very supportive of their local scenes, and that’s important to me because when I travel I like to look for local music.  Plus they had some cool and knowledgeable people, people who are obviously passionate about music.

Top 5 Music Books

1.  Girl in a Band:  A Memoir, by Kim Gordon
2.  Lexicon Devil: The Fast Times and Short Life of Darby Crash and the Germs, by Brendan Mullen
3.  For Whom the Cowbell Tolls: 25 Years of Paul’s Boutique, by Dan LeRoy
4.  The Truth of Revolution, Brother: The Philosophies of Punk, by Robin Ryde, Lisa Sofianos, and Charlie Waterhouse
5.  Crate Digger: An Obsession With Punk Records, by Bob Suren

girlinaband

I probably read about 15-20 music books in 2015, and the above were easily the best of the bunch.  And of these five, Kim Gordon’s was by far the most compelling, probably more so as the story of an artist’s life and struggles than for anything specifically related to Sonic Youth.  Truth be told, I’ve never owned a Sonic Youth album, and I couldn’t name single one of their songs if I tried (I may have to give up my music blogging card for that admission, but whatever), so I wasn’t particularly predisposed to feel any particular way about Girl in a Band.  The Truth of Revolution, Brother is a pretty unique project, one that I sponsored via Kickstarter.  Part of the appeal was that a couple of OG Icelandic punks were interviewed in it, specifically Einar Örn Benediktsson and Jón Gnarr.  It was an interesting take on punk philosophy, which resonated even more so after hearing Einar Örn talk for a few minutes prior to a Ghostigital show about what being a punk means to him.

 

This year Holly asked if she could contribute a few lists of her own, and it seemed like a great idea to me since her perspective is often quite different from mine.  So with minimal commentary, here are some of her top musical picks for 2015.

Top 5 New Releases in 2015 (Mrs. Life in the Vinyl Lane)

1.  Dodge and Burn – The Dead Weather
2.  FFS – FFS
3.  Born Under Saturn – Django Django
4.  Adjust to the Light – Fufanu
5.  “Inside Paul’s Boutique”

We didn’t have any albums in common in our Top 5 lists, and in fact she only had one album I’ve even written about on hers!  Number five is an outlier – it’s the roughly 12 hour incredible show that KEXP radio did in which they deconstructed all of Paul’s Boutique, literally playing in full every single song sampled by the Beastie Boys on that album, in the order they appeared on it.  It’s epic.  Don’t believe us?  Check it out for yourself HERE.

Top 5 “New to Me” Bands/Performers (Mrs. Life in the Vinyl Lane)

1.  East India Youth (UK)
2.  Islam Chipsy (Egypt)
3.  russian.girls (Iceland)
4.  Alexandra Atnif (US/Romania)
5.  Operators (US/Canada)

Again, not much overlap between the his-and-hers lists, only Alexandra Atnif.  That being said, all four of the other bands here made it to my initial list as well, they just ultimately didn’t crack my personal Top 5.

Top 5 Live Shows (Mrs. Life in the Vinyl Lane)

1.  The Kills – Roseland Theatre, Portland OR
2.  Thievery Corporation – Showbox Sodo, Seattle
3.  Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Pioneer Park, Salt Lake City UT
4.  East India Youth – NASA, Reykjavik
5.  Bubbi & DIMMA – NASA, Reykjavik

We actually have quite a bit of overlap her, and both Thievery Corporation and East India Youth made to to my short list.  There were just so many good shows in 2015.

 

So there you have it, ladies and gents.  Another fantastic year is almost in the books, and I can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store for us.  And since we’ve already purchased our tickets for Iceland Airwaves 2016 and to see Devil Makes Three at Red Rocks in Colorado in May, I suspect it’s going to be pretty excellent.

Bootlegs – “W.C. Monster” (1989)

A while back I bought some records online from my friend Dr. Gunni.  The primary reason for me placing the order with him was to get my hands on his very reasonably priced copy of the thrash metal album W.C. Monster by the Icelandic band Bootlegs.  However, I also bought a few other things from him which I promptly listened to and wrote about… and left W.C. Monster sitting on my shelf, collecting dust and getting angrier and angrier at me for not playing it.  And now that I’m listening to it for the first time, I can’t believe I waited this long.

bootlegwcmunster

I can’t tell you too much about Bootlegs.  They put out two LPs – the first was W.C. Monster in 1989, followed the next year by the self-titled Bootlegs.  Both have earned cult status among both metalheads and Icelandic music fans due to the limited press runs – I’ve seen references online to W.C. Monster being limited to only 300 copies, but I can’t validate this information.  Given that I found a hand-written note in my copy with an address for the Bootlegs Fan Club that also let me know I could order a band shirt for 1,000 kr,  It wouldn’t be surprising though – I can’t imagine the band writing a few thousand of these out.  Vinyl copies of each command fairly healthy prices in the $100+ range, though both are also available on CD as well – Bootlegs both as an original 1990 release as well as a 2014 re-release, while W.C. Monster only saw its first digital pressing last year.  So at least the music remains affordably accessible.  In fact you can buy a digital download of W.C. Monster, along with some additional live tracks, for just $7 HERE.

W.C. Monster is some killer thrash, with just a tiny bit of punk rock thrown in for good measure.  It’s fast and it’s loud.  The drums are used like exclamation points, crashing down around you, and the guitars shred.  If Suicidal Tendencies and Metallica had merged and become one band around 1986, it probably would have sounded something like this. I feel like I should be telling you more about individual songs and such, but dammit, I just want to listen to this thing.  There isn’t a single clunker on W.C. Monster.  But don’t take my word for it – there are at least three songs off this album available on YouTube for you to check out HERE, HERE, and HERE, so go give ’em a listen.  You may just want to plunk down that seven bucks for the download or try to track down a copy of the CD if you do.

When you play vinyl roulette with used records, you generally don’t know what you’re going to get.  Generally speaking I find something enjoyable in just about every record I buy and play, but there certainly have been a few flat out dogs too.  Every once in a while, though, you come across something that totally blows you away with its awesomeness, and W.C. Monster was one of those records for me – absolutely killer, and right in my wheelhouse.  This one goes straight into the “heavy rotation” pile.  Thanks Dr. Gunni!

“World Domination or Death, Vol. 1” Compilation

I’m back on the compilation train!

I ran across this at the flea market in Reykjavik last month, and it’s a cool mix put out by Icelandic label Bad Taste Records. Einar Örn of Purrkur Pillnikk, Ghostigital, and The Sugarcubes fame was one of the driving forces in founding the label in 1986, and his reputation in the local music community ensured they’d be able to sign the cream of the Icelandic crop.  And that’s evident by the bands who appear on World Domination or Death, Vol. 1 (1990), which is made up of two songs each by Reptile, Bless, HAM, and Bootlegs, and singles for The Sugarcubes and Oxtor.

We do not know what Bad Taste is.
Therefore we present to you
another taste in Icelandic Music.
World Domination or Death.
Know what I mean gringo.
— From back album jacket

This is an interesting combination of bands.  On side A you’ve got Reptile, a band I haven’t reviewed here on the blog previously but will likely get to in short order since I have a couple of their records on my shelves, and who sound almost like a crazy Japanese pop band from the 1980s. Next up is Bless, one of the projects of the infamous Dr. Gunni, a prolific musician and top notch music historian who I was lucky enough to meet in person on the same trip that got me this record, who play a sort of early Cult style of rock.  Then we get to HAM.  We are HAM!  The masters of Icelandic doom metal… who on this album cover Abba’s “Voulez Vous”.  Nuf said.  The Bootlegs then kick in and take the metal to the next level, playing a solid thrash style that speaks to fans of early Metallica like me.  And finally The Sugarcubes who, let’s be honest, don’t require an introduction.  The reverse side has the same five bands with the exception of The Sugarcubes, who are replaced by Oxtar and a sort of rockabilly tune called “Kontinental”.

The vinyl also contains some super-secret messages engraved into the runout grooves:

“We’re in charge.  If that’s OK with you.” – Side A
“We will rule.  Give or take an inch.” – Side B

World Domination or Death, Vol. 1 is one of the better Icelandic comps out there – while there are only six bands here, all of them are good and many were pretty important parts of the scene.  Too bad there were no other volumes put out, as near as I can tell, but this one is definitely worth picking up on vinyl or CD.