If you have never heard of Icelandic superstar pixie muffin Björk, you were never alive during the 90s. For all her intrinsic weirdness, Björk’s music in the 90s was always a reliable source of fifth dimensional electronic dance floor passion. It saddens me that this generation may only know her as the girl that wore the swan dress to the
MTV Music Awards 2001 Academy Awards show. Well, I mean that’s a hell of a thing to be remembered for but it dismays me that her music has taken a backseat to her persona. Even though her music has always been in and around my life, Björk has never been mine except for my brief love affair with Lars Von Trier’s gutwrenching drama, Dancer n the Dark. All my friends owned her CDs so I never felt the need to be redundant in my purchases. I’ve always been threatening to dive into her work one day and this is that day.
The final straw was when I was watching Zack Snyder’s misguided Suckerpunch and he chose Björk’s grinding “Army of Me” to very obviously parallel his story about a girl who fantasizes herself up a girl power strike force to deal with her harsh realities. Someone in the theater said, listening to the song for the first time I guess, “What is this?” Could it be that people had forgotten Tank Girl as well? This would not stand.
If people were going to not know her then I was going to know everything about her (this is how my brain works) so I sought out all of Björk’s back catalog at Best Buy, Target, Walmart, FYE, CD Mania, used record shops… and she was gone. Things were worse than I thought. Even as a new album, Biophiliia, looms, Björk’s not even in the dustbin of music history. She’s just been… redacted. Of course, digital media is king so she’s there but it’s sad that little Suzie Anne in Spokane can’t flit past the newest autotune lothario and happen upon the weird and wonderful Björk.
I finally broke down and ordered her first four albums online through amazon. Thank god for amazon.
So here are my unfiltered thoughts on each as I retrace her musical history and relive albums I only ever really heard vicariously through the shitty speakers in Jeff’s car.
Most people my age weren’t cool enough to know about the Sugarcubes (Björk’s first internationally known band) pre-debut single Human Behavior but that didn’t stop them from proclaiming the Sugarcubes better than Björk moments after that connection was established. That’s a shame because on her first solo album, Björk is a really strange kid exploring the cheesiest synth ever. The iconic cover of Debut isn’t flashy or even very clever, it’s just Björk herself in a ratty brown sweater with orphan chic hair looking coquettish and a little deranged. I personally love it when sweaters or hoodies have sleeves that cover over the knuckles and this is where I first saw that.
Everyone remembers the whacked out video for Human Behavior which we would all later recognize as the arrival of visionary director Michel Gondry. Björk’s woman-child charm and bizarre world of cotton clouds and stuffed bear suits was all too enticing. These were the days of the Mtv Buzz Clip and nothing was buzzier than Björk. Sadly, it’s also the best song on her debut album by a long shot. It almost sounds like it came out of a different session. Things start off well enough, Crying sounds like musicians being musicians and Venus as a Boy has a certain floaty charm to it. Then of course there’s the ridiculous There’s More to Life Than This which takes a brief, wonderful detour into the ladies toilet for a drunken acapella sing-a-long mid song. Once we’re past Big Time Sinsuality there’s not much meat left on the bone. Honestly, a lot of it sounds like scraps from The Sugarcubes’ table.