Reptile (aka Risaeðlan) – “Ívar Bongó” and “Fame and Fossils”

Reptile reminds me of what Oingo Boingo would sound like if fronted by Björk.

OK, that’s simply not true.  Once again I went into listening to an album with some fancy, witty idea for an opening, and the music made that opening both irrelevant and ignorant.  You’d think I’d have learned by now.  Let the music speak for itself.  Though to be fair (to me), Reptile’s sound is all over the place, and I sort of formulated that idea after hearing a couple of their tracks on the World Domination compilation, so it’s not like I was totally making stuff up.  Not really.  I mean, not REALLY.  Maybe more like taking some artistic liberties.  But bad ones.

I don’t even know how to describe Reptile to you.  They don’t seem to a have “a sound” per se, instead bouncing around from indie to alt-swing to punk to Japanese pop.  Fame and Fossils (1990) is sort of disjointed, almost like every song is done in a different style.  It’s a bizarre listening experience – not bad, just sort of hard to pin down.  It doesn’t neatly fit into a category, which I suppose is good in a way, but that also makes it challenging – maybe too challenging for a work night, like I might need an extra cocktail or two to really get into it.  Now the four-song EP Ívar Bongó (1990)… that I got into right away.  The songs felt a bit more connected, though realistically they weren’t – they just might have been a stronger group of material, and therefore were just better top to bottom.  “Ó” sounds like it would fit in perfectly on the soundtrack to your Halloween party, and every track was a winner.

These records both came to me via Lucky Records… but on different trips.  I picked up Fame and Fossils last year at Airwaves, while I added Ívar Bongó on our most recent trip and just hadn’t gotten around to listening to it yet (four records left that still haven’t graced the turntable since our mid-April trip to Reykjavik… I’m workin’ on it!).  Good stuff.  Not sure entirely what to make of it at this point, but it’s still good stuff.

“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.