Album: Bjork – “Volta” (2007)

Phew, nearly out of the woods now, as I reach the penultimate Bjork album. I bought this on release week, I seem to remember, and I’m not ENTIRELY sure if I ever got through it. I’m happy to note that after the ordeal of ‘Drawing Restraint 9’, she’s actually considered putting aside her issues and made some SONGS. I know, I was surprised as you!

09 Earth intruders – A single, with a tune and everything! Even Timbaland produced it, making it sound comparable to music that normal people listen to. Not that it’s obvious he’s behind this at all though, it doesn’t sound like anything he’s done before. If anything, it’s almost a return to the glory days of ‘Post’, which is definitely a GOOD THING. Tribal beats, buzzing basslines, a melody, I am so happy! It’s not quite a singalong smash, but it’s certainly the most listenable Bjork song I’ve had the pleasure of hearing for 10 year’s worth of back catalogue. But then what happens? After little more than half of its 6 minutes, it fizzles out, and we’re ‘treated’ to 2 minutes of ship horns hooting away. I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY THIS IS HAPPENING. Utter garbage, and I am deciding to omit this segment from my memory (if only it were that easy) and just remember the radio edit.

08 Wanderlust – She does like her brass sections doesn’t she? I know it’s lazy to pigeonhole every song I hear as “a bit like such-and-such album”, but we are straddling Selmasongs and Homogenic here, and it works pretty well, a really dirty bassline blowing up your speakers, with a faster-paced beat over the top of it all. It doesn’t quite cohere but it’s not bad at all. If it had been a straight up ballad, it would have been dull as anything over 5 minutes, so a good save.

06 Dull flame of desire – These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise, travelling to new worlds filled with more brass section and bizarre tranny guest vocalists. I really hate this guy’s voice, always have, it’s the guy from Antony & The Johnsons (is that Antony?). The song itself is a good effort at something listenable, but it’s just so long and dreary, and her duet partner really annoys me. I can imagine this being a highlight for many, but not me on this occasion. I’ll try not to use the word ‘dull’, even though they hand it to me on a plate.

07 Innocence – Suddenly you are shaken out of your half-sleep by some guy with a bad sneeze. Is this the sequel to Alarm Call? It feels VERY familiar as a Homogenic soundalike. She’s having fun at least, and it’s got a nice energy to it, but that constant stop-start rhythm is a bit harsh on the brain. At least it’s not boring. Brings back good memories of (much) earlier output, and even had a quite pleasant half-time intermission.

04 I see who you are – Is that a Shamisen or other Japanese instrument? Alarm bells are going off after the 10-minute oriental torture from the last CD, but it seems to be a false alarm. Not much to it though, back to more modern-day Bjork, i.e. plinky-plonky, tuneless meandering. Not much I can say really, there’s barely anything to comment on. No THANKS.

05 Vertebrae by Vertebrae – Oh no, the brass section is back for Jaws 3D. They’ve even brought some military drummers too, what’s going on? Judging by the title she’s going to do something unpleasant to my spine. I get the whole portentous feel to the song, but what is she going on about? It’s just a mess again, like the previous track but with some more familiar instruments. After a few minutes, the drama is just repetitive and I’m used to it, like those people who go on rollercoasters for 24 hours. Only not as exciting.

05 Pneumonia – Ahh pneumonia, we are letting the good times roll aren’t we? What are the symptoms? Drowsiness, headaches? I think I might be getting it… Oh now I really am sorry, I feel like my objectivity has totally gone from this Bjork project, it’s obvious we are both on different pages, and I’m just sitting here expecting that album of 3-minute disco covers that will NEVER COME. Like they say, if you can’t stand the 5-minute percussionless brass band tracks with no melody, then get out of the kitchen. This is really boring, sorry. Let me just pray she never gets into using string sections, I don’t want her to ruin those for me.

03 Hope – Hmm, sounds like it might be a song. There’s a beat, Bjork is sort of singing some sort of song, so far so good. Suicide bombers made to look pregnant? I don’t get the morality issue here, she’s not actually pregnant, she’s just trying to kill someone!? For the first time I can actually understand what she’s singing, and it turns out it’s just repetitive nonsense. OH GOD SHUT UP WOMAN! I’m deducting points for being stupid. If the bump was real, then she wouldn’t have a bomb, she’d just be a pregnant woman. SHUT UP!!! The final kick in the balls is another 30 seconds of SHIP HORNS! WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS, YOU SOCIOPATH!?

06 Declare independence – Thank God, we are having a Homogenic relapse. That’s sort of good, it’s not exactly my favourite album due to its inconsistency, and this falls into the rather migraine-inducing industrial strength beats and basslines period. What are ‘they’ doing to me? I don’t see why making my own stamp will help though. It’s a bit of a lazy ‘anthem’, sounds like something an overly serious teen might write. At least there’s a bit of spark to it, but … agh, maybe it’s my age but it’s just NOISE a lot of the time.

05 My Juvenile – I’ve had my fill of this. I’d say this album tries to emulate Homogenic more than her other albums, but sadly it’s only emulating its massive inconsistency as an album. Back to dull plonky drivel, and Antony is back for a few backing vocals, and helping NOTHING. God, are we at the end yet? We are? HOORAY! funny story, for some reason, my copy of Volta has “I See Who You Are” as track 11 as well as track 4″. I’ve listened to this album 7 times through now, and I didn’t even NOTICE, it’s so BORING.

So that’s that. I swear it wasn’t a conscious move (particularly after my worry that I rate 90% of songs between 7 and 9), but there’s a song for each score between 9 and 3. Crucially, there are no 10/10 moments, despite Earth Intruders sounding like the best thing ever since the wilderness of the last 3 albums. Any album that decides requires a 2 1/2 minute boat horn chorus to make whatever bullshit artistic statement it was suppose to make really doesn’t DESERVE any leeway.

At one point I was actually quite excited that it sounded like she was going to start making listenable music again, but whatever was in her cornflakes (or whatever freaky Icelandic ‘delicacy’ she eats, probably Christmas baubles) when she put her name to Earth Intruders and Innocence feels like a rare moment of lucidity among a sea of 6-minute snoozers. The fact that both those tracks have Timbaland & Danja production credits can’t be a coincidence surely? But no, despite the fun/ridiculous alien football mascot on the cover of the album, this is a largely joyless listening experience. The only solace I take is that there is only one album left.

Keepers for the iPod: Earth Intruders (Radio Edit), Wanderlust

Up next: Biophilia (2011)

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