I think almost every music fan has that one band they would love to see get back together. Sometimes it’s just because you’d love to hear some new music from one of your favorites, but I suspect that most of the time it’s because you want to see them perform live, whether it’s for the first time or just one more time. Certainly there are millions of folks who would throw fistfuls of money at any promoter who could convince the three surviving members of Led Zeppelin to do a tour (me included), and those band reunion desires extend all the way from the peak of Mount Zeppelin to the lowliest of bar bands, like that one amazing band that did all those fun shows at that dive you hung out in when you were younger. It’s all a part of us as humans trying to recapture those amazing feelings we had in the past about a particular artist or band (or our friends, or life in general).
I, of course, have my own list of such bands, and a few of them are punk outfits from Iceland who stopped making music before I ever even knew Iceland was a country. I’d love to see Purrkur Pillnikk or Þeyr perform again for sure, and alongside them, perhaps even surpassing them, would be Björk’s old band Tappi Tíkarrass. Fortunately for me the nostalgia wave reached Iceland and last year we learned that Tappi Tíkarrass were releasing their first album in 34 years. The re-formed band was comprised of original members, though unfortunately lacking Ms. Guðmundsdóttir – but the idea of them putting out a new record was exciting nonetheless. When I heard they’d be playing Airwaves it was an added bonus – a chance to see them live! And I’d be lying if I didn’t secretly hope that maybe, just maybe, Björk might step onto the tiny stage at Reykjavik’s Gaukurinn (below) for a song or two. She didn’t, but it was still a great show and one to check off my musical bucket list.
Right out of the gate with the opening chords of “Spat” it’s clear that Tappi Tíkarrass are still in touch with their old sound, the guitar work having that certain undefinable (at least to me) flavor that just screams 1980s Icelandic punk. There are some early new wave elements here as well, like the Big-Country-sounding “Tiltekinn” and the Bowie-esque “Hlusta”. Don’t be fooled, though; Tappi Tíkarrass is far from derivative. This is a band that has its own unique flavor, one shaped by the time and place during which the musicians came of age. My nod for the most intriguing track on the album is “Skanna Stjörnur”, an off-kilter number accentuated by some lyrical modulation towards the end.
The definitive element of the band’s sound is Eyjólfur Jóhannsson’s guitar, which gives direction and pace to each song and differentiates one from another. Vocalist Eyþór Arnalds definitely puts in some work as well, not trying to overdo it but still providing some flourishes and adding his own sonic touch to the songs.
My one criticism of Tappi Tíkarrass, at least on vinyl, is the recording sounds a bit flat to me. I’m not sure if that’s intentional, but I feel like the range is a bit compressed. It becomes less noticeable as the album progresses, though I’m thinking that’s just the result of my ears compensating. Regardless, I’m glad we got to experience a new Tappi Tíkarrass record – the guys are still talented and can write some good jams.
– Jeff Obermeyer