I’ve spent a lot of years very openly deriding the work of Bjork to anyone who’d listen. To me, she’s always sounded like being weird comes first, being a musician comes second. Every Bjork song I’ve ever heard sounds like the music was recorded in one place, then she laid down vocals somewhere else without ever listening to that music. Then, someone added the two disparate elements together and hoped for the best. But too many musicians I really love seem to be fans of Bjork’s pre solo band, The Sugarcubes. So I feel kind of obliged to give them a go if I’m going to continue my crusade against Bjork with a clear conscience. So here I am, listening to the Sugarcubes debut, Life’s Too Good.
Two songs in, and I’m already starting to get these Icelandic nut jobs and what they’re all about. Traitor and Motocrash are great, 80s pop songs. The melodies are strong and coherent, and it sounds like Bjork is actually listing to the music she’s singing along to.
Then comes Birthday, which, according to Wikipedia, is the single that broke these guys big in Europe. Thanks a fucking lot Europe, because this is the kind of incoherence that I’ve heard from Bjork in her solo years. So if you hadn’t encouraged her by making Birthday a hit, maybe the world could have avoided the last two decades of her precious bullshit.
Delicious Demons kind of splits the difference. It has traditional pop at its core, but The Sugarcubes find plenty of room to experiment and be a little different. That seems to be the key to me liking this kind of music. Experiment away, go a little nuts, try crazy things, but have some sort of recognisable base there so I have something to cling to and give the song a little perspective.
A theory further solidified by Coldsweat. It’s dark and foreboding and grabbed me early, never letting go. It made me realise something else about Bjork, I don’t mind her… In small doses. With several singers taking the mic, listening to Life’s Too Good means Bjork is spread out, rarely getting 100% of the vocal duties on any one song. Instead, she’s like a weapon to be used here and there to add her unique colour. Eve when she’s the major voice in a song, those little reprises from the others make her stand out more, in a good way I never expected.
In short, I get The Sugarcubes. I might not have been miraculously turned into a massive fan and I’ll be surprised if I ever feel the need to listen to their other stuff. But now that I have heard Life’s Too Good, I’m sure I’ll end up listening to it again at some stage. Although, this in no way changes my opinion on solo Bjork and the atrocities she has committed, then had the audacity to call music. While Life’s Too Good may have proven that there’s a side to Bjork I enjoy, it also shows her bad tendencies have always been there. It just took the rest of The Sugarcubes working together to keep them in check.