Homogenic, by Bjork
Suggested by Paul Wray
I’d forgotten about Bjork.
That’s quite a bold statement, as she’s not exactly a shrinking violent. If anything, she’s a clawed raking slap across the face.
Having purchased and enjoyed both Debut and Post back in the early Nineties – Bjork’s first and second albums – it appears that Little Miss Iceland picked up a cricket bat, overpowered the flying monkey guards, then smashed her way out of my skull and sauntered off with a swagger.
That happens quite a lot with me, weirdly. Even with bands or artists I completely love. I can be wandering through the rabbit holes of Wikipedia, and stumble upon news that my first-class favourite band ever has released a new album. In 2005. And three newer albums since.
So then. Bjork. After #1 and #2, will #3 (of NINE!) hit that funky sweet spot between genius and insanity?
Homogenic starts well, with the mesmerising and ethereal Hunter. We’re immediately treated to peak Bjork, whisper-singing with wild eyes, through gritted teeth. Her voice has the graceful fairy-like quality that marked her previous two albums for greatness, and it’s infused with more flair and contortion that any sane listener can comprehend.
Part Justine Fleishman, part Yoko Ono, part Salvador Dali, Bjork always sounds as if she’s singing to an entirely different song that the one that’s currently playing. She always churns through the lyrics, her peculiar phrasing making them sound as if she ripped the lid off the song and sprinkled them into the musical soup without reason, crowbarring them into the melody like a toddler smashing a star-shaped block against a triangular hole.
Musically, her choices are both baffling, beautiful, emotional and cerebral. Every song is a gem, a box of chocolates, an onion. Shiny, individually wrapped, multi-layered weirdness. Its adventurous, funky, and effortlessly, effortlessly cool.
On the face of it, I should hate this stuff, right? Weird musicality, oddball vocalisation, music to appreciate rather than lose yourself in? Well, no. Part of Bjork’s weighty skillset is to keep a fine focus on songcraft, so each track has a coherence and intricacy that never fails to charm or enrapture. She’s literally breathtaking.
While there’s something to be said for every song on this album, my personal favourite is the most bombastic here, the marvellously theatrical Bachelorette. Strong beats, sublime strings, almost Bond Theme in structure and feel, it’s described by Bjork herself as “Isobel goes to the city.” Isobel is one of Post’s best tracks, and a fine precursor to this epic. Epic, dramatic, and glorious.
There is so much to unpack and enjoy in Homogenic, I can’t do it justice in five hundred words or less. I give this album a well deserved 9/10. Welcome back into my brain, Bjork. I look forward to exploring albums four through nine.