Album: Bjork – “Homogenic” (1998)

Right, time for round 3. Bjork was obviously doing pretty well at this point and it showed in the quality of her music videos from this album onwards. Not that the ‘Post’ videos were bad in any way, but this really was a great stylistic leap forward.

If I’m brutally honest, I don’t feel like some people do that this is her best album. I have to say that some of her finest moments are on Homogenic, but some of the more experimental moments just fall flat with me in a way that ‘Post’ never did. So it’s not for everybody, I think everyone can concede that this is a common theme for Bjork so it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

10 Hunter – Right, good start. Fascinatingly simple video, and a hypnotic opening track. That shuddering drum machine with the strings surfacing every so often like Jaws. I love the dangerous tone to the song, it’s a real scene-setter. A perfect mix of the unusual lyrical style we got into on ‘Post’ but with something that still sounds pretty damn fresh and exciting 13 years later.

09 Joga – Back to basics now, and a more environmental twist, evidenced by the wonderful landscape in the video. Back to the same hybrid of string sections with ultra-modern beats, but more skewed to the classical sound. I don’t know why particularly but it just reminds you that she’s an Icelandic artist, and never compromised her roots in that respect. I don’t know if her music means more to Icelanders… I don’t really know what point I’m trying to make.

08 Unravel – A lot sparser now, reminiscent of the more intimate moments of ‘Post’. A sweet ballad about missing her loved one, using a rather odd metaphor of the Devil unravelling her heart. Not entirely sure what she’s trying to say, she loves him less the longer he’s away? Maybe it’s not that sweet after all. A bit slow but there’s a song in there at least, and I’ll be grateful for that once we reach further into this album. Was going to give this a 7, but that church organ bit really MAKES it.

10 Bachelorette – Now THIS. THIS is the whole package, and while Hunter was brilliant, this really surpasses anything else on the album. The mix of classic and beats is as perfectly measured and potent as rocket fuel. The lyrics are just pure poetry, all the pieces really just fit marvellously. On top of all this, we get one of the most creative music videos I’ve ever seen, courtesy of Michel Gondry. Magic.

08 All neon like
– It would be practically impossible to follow Bachelorette, so I will try not to hold it against this one. Though I think the cracks begin to show as the album descends into style over substance, and the experimental moments miss more than they hit. That said, there is still some melody in here, and some interesting musical moments and lovely vocals. Those glassy electronic shimmers are lovely, and her vocal delivery has some wonderful moments, but those big lumpy beats (and that horrid buzzy effect during the mid-section) really don’t fit well for me. Perhaps it would be less interesting without them, but when they left up briefly there is a lovely moment. Not sure about it really.

06 5 Years – Now the beats really do get out of control. Speaker-crushing basslines really sound harsh to my ears, sometimes that works but not here. It distracts too much from the song, apart from a few brief moments where we are left to hear Bjork with minimal production. But the yelling starts soon after, so my interest really wears thin. A decent-ish song ruined by most of the production.

05 Immature – I wonder what I would have thought of this song if the first half of the album hadn’t contained such heights. Well the good news is that the beats don’t totally overwhelm this one, but the bad news is that the song is a bit of a dud. Not bad really, I just really don’t connect to it. Thank God there’s only 3 minutes. Not really enjoying her vocals, or as she would put it, “I doh-oh-ohn’t, enjo-oh-oy, her vo-oh-cals”

07 Alarm Call – I suppose you’d struggle to get 4 singles out of this album (though if Possibly Maybe seemed like a good idea, why not Unravel?). The show gets back on the road somewhat, an actual song makes an appearance. Can’t say I’m too into the bridges, nor the all-too-quotable ‘fucking buddhist’ line, or even the one-trick-pony of a piranha music video. But generally it’s a fair song, thought doesn’t really go anywhere particular. I’m just more happy to get to something more listenable. This all sounds a bit harsh, I QUITE like the song.

02 Pluto – Oh well, we had a good run. The beats have their way, with an ultra-intense migraine of production totally burying this one. I could see it just about working, but the song isn’t up to much. “Excuse me, but I just have to explode”… oh whatever, I don’t get it. The bridge is alright, the woo-hoo-ooohs and backing, but that brief spell of listenability seems to upset the drum machine, which promptly has a showstopping tantrum. And so it continues until I have a fatal seizure. The best candidate for the “Aural holocaust” award this side of Drawing Restraint 9. The 2 points are for the VERY rare occasions when I find this harsh bitch of a song vaguely listenable, like how you like eating fizzy sweets.

10 All is full of love – Is the album title some sort of joke? It’s the most uneven listening experience. Anyway, let’s finish rather unexpectedly on a gloriously listenable note. Again, perhaps the video steals the show (or even makes the song), with a disarmingly tender love scene between two robot Bjorks, or as close as you’ll get without any robot genitalia. I love the gentle rhythm of the intro, soaring into a gorgeous chorus that she puts everything into. The repeated title between her and the backing vocals always remind me oddly of church bells ringing, they have that weird overlapping rhythm to them. Not an awful lot to this song if I really think about it, but really beautiful nonetheless.

So there we have it, some truly inspired moments make up Homogenic, but I could never forgive those beastly moments like ‘Pluto’ to declare this her best album, it just doesn’t work for me. Visually I loved this campaign, something they really got totally right and trod the line between visionary eye candy and the slightly TOO high-art efforts we would get more regularly in later albums.

Keepers for the iPod:
Hunter, Joga, Unravel, Bachelorette, All is full of love.

Next: Selmasongs (2000)

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