It’s rare for an totally developed debut album to turn up out of the blue. It’s even more rare for one to turn up which bears no relation to anything else around. And to compound these twin delights, it’s more than rare for it actually to be good.
Grísalappalísa’s Ali, released last month, is this thing.
From Reykjavík, Grísalappalísa are and aren’t easy to get a handle on. Aren’t because the album is entirely in Icelandic. Are because their direct, forcefully delivered music has detectable roots.
The band have been going less than a year and are fronted by two singers (shades of Sugarcubes): Gunnar Ragnarsson and Baldur Baldursson. Ragnarsson used to be in Jakóbínarína and Baldursson is known as a poet. Bassist Bergur Thomas Anderson is from Oyama, while Tumi Árnason (sax) and Albert Finnbogason (guitar) are from The Heavy Experience. Drummer Sigurður Möller Sívertsen was also in Jakobínarína.
Thanks to the Reykjavík Grapevine, it’s possible to discover that Ali is a concept album about a woman called Lísa. Whoever she is or was, it can’t have been much comfort that this lot had her on their minds. Especially so, considering the creepy paintings of condoms in the album’s word-stuffed booklet.
Handily, there is no need to know what it’s all about as Ali is so strong – strong as in powerful. Ragnarsson and Baldursson bark out the lyrics over a clipped, guitar-driven chug with shades of motorik, Killing Joke, Belfegore and Talking Heads. But it all coalesces to sound like nothing else. The presence of sax may initially seem off-putting, but it’s neither distracting or superfluous. Someone’s paid attention to King Crimson.
Even when the tone lightens on “Hver er ég?”, a sense of menace or distress remains. Before that, “Brost' ekki of bjart” is an anthem which may get lighters raised aloft. Or may scare unsuspecting audiences. Ragnarsson and Baldursson sound pretty angry
It’s impossible to work out what this would be exactly like live, but it’s certain that when experienced in person the impact will be nothing less than that of K-X-P.
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