From Iceland — Welcome To The Old Skool: Icelandic Legends To Play Airwaves

Welcome To The Old Skool: Icelandic Legends To Play Airwaves

Published October 5, 2017

Airwaves. That time of year when annoying youngsters fill the streets with their unbridled joy, loudness and new-fangled music (this magazine is infested with it: check pages 22-33). But for people who prefer their rock stars to be over 50, and preferably Members of Parliament, thankfully the festival has something else to offer.

For those who love to relive the glory days of Icelandic punk in 1982, there is the semi-legendary art punk band Tappi Tíkarass. Best known for being Björk’s first band, they came to prominence with an electrifying performance in the documentary ‘Rokk í Reykjavík.’ 16-year-old Björk, dressed up like a doll, was even the star of the film poster. She went on to greater things, as did her co-singer Eyþór Arnalds. He became the bare-chested cellist for ‘90s supergroup Todmobile, before being elected to Reykjavík’s City Council, and then doing the same thing in the neighbouring municipality of Árborg. Bass player Jakob Smári Magnússon played with virtually everyone before becoming a salesman, and guitarist Eyjólfur Jóhannesson co-founded supergroup SSSól. Now Tappi have reformed, sans Björk, and are working on a new album. Eyþór, whose political career was temporarily derailed after he drunk-drove, rockstar-like, into a lamppost, will probably keep his shirt on this time.

Second generation punks HAM, who originally formed in 1988, are also notable for their extracurricular activities. Singer/guitarist Sigurjón Kjartansson later became a member of the wildly popular comedic duo Tvíhöfði, alongside (now former Reykjavík mayor) Jón Gnarr, and has since turned his attention to screenwriting. Vocalist Óttarr Proppé is the current Minister For Health, pending the next elections, which were scheduled to occur after his party brought down the government coalition. HAM may be one of the only active punk/metal bands in the world today with a sitting member of government in it, but do they still rock? In all likelihood, yes. We’ll find out soon enough.

One living legend unlikely to enter politics anytime soon is singer-songwriter Megas, whose debut was way back in ‘72, and who is now 72 himself. Megas brought poetry to Icelandic rock, and is often mentioned in the same breath as Nobel Prize winner Halldór Laxness. Still, he’s lost none of his trademark irreverence, as he proved at his last gig on Reykjavík Culture Night, where he sang a one and a half hour version of Gavin Bryar’s arrangement of an unknown homeless man singing the same line over and over again. The performance was well-attended, but only hardcore fans stuck it out to the end. We never know what to expect from Megas—but expect this to be good.

For those who prefer their nostalgia tinged with the ‘90s, there is 1994 Músiktilraunir battle of the bands winner, Maus, who can perhaps be described as artsy guitar rock. Guitarist Páll Ragnar Pálsson now writes classical music, while singer Birgir Örn Steinarsson is a psychologist and screenwriter, but the band has returned to celebrate 20 years since the release of the seminal album ‘Lof mér að falla að þínu eyra.’

Finally, there’s 200.000 Naglbítar, who landed third place in the 1995 Músiktilraunir. Over the subsequent decade, they scored a number of hits with their rather joyful pop in the local charts, but singer Vilhelm Anton Jónsson is perhaps best known as a TV personality and an author of science books for children. They are working on a new album now, but as they and Maus are still in their early forties, perhaps they’ll have their own political parties by the 2020s. I wonder what that will do to everyone’s ‘90s nostalgia? Until then, we can see them play, and party like it’s 1995.

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