Saturday, September 18, 2010


I've had a rare Saturday off, and I've spent it exercising, playing video games, and spending far too much time at the computer (I have actually accomplished a few things though, and it's my time off dammit, I'll do what I want!). Been listening to music on the computer for several hours now (according to the Last Played list on iTunes), giving me some idea of how long I've been physically inactive...and explaining why I'm getting hungry...

But when a Björk track came on shuffle on iTunes, I decided to go to YouTube and look for a couple videos of hers, in particular the video for Big Time Sensuality. It was a track off of her first post-Sugarcubes solo effort entitled Debut, from 1993. A remix was used for the video version, which I always thought was far superior to the album version of the song. As for the video itself, it is fascinating in its simplicity. The entire 5 minute piece consists of her bounding around in full Björk-ness on the back of a flatbed truck, slowly meandering thru the streets of Manhattan. That's it. And yet, despite the minimalist approach, it is truly compelling to watch. Shot in black & white to boot (really driving home the bare bones approach), it's almost as interesting (to me) to watch the surroundings as it is to watch her. I'm always looking at it trying to figure out exactly which intersection of NYC they're going thru...or wondering what the people on the nearby bus were thinking as this big truck passed by, with this wacky female with the goofy hairstyle jumping around like some spastic idiot on the back. I also think how much I would have LOVED to have been one of the passerby on the street; I probably would've been arrested as I proceeded to follow the truck up and down the streets on its destinationless journey...

I have always thought she is an incredibly beautiful human being. I find her an irresistably attractive woman, even with her goofy golf-ball-knot hairstyle she used in that video (and she wore frequently in that Debut album era), although one of the most attractive pictures I ever saw of her graced the cover of Time Out New York back when Dancer In The Dark came out. Her one and only film, there are legendary stories of her fighting with director Lars von Trier that made her swear off ever making another, despite her winning the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival. There's just something about that chin down, knowing smile, eyebrow raised, only one eye visible thru her flowing hair look that completely overpowers me. There aren't many women on the planet I'd be willing to kill for, but at that moment, she'd have been one...

(Completely coincidentally, it marks 10 years ago this week that Dancer In The Dark showed at the New York Film Festival. Dbborroughs is attending this year's NYFF right now as a member of the press, due to his dogged persistence with his site Unseen Films, which I am an occasional contributor to, and also editor of. Db tends to write very stream-of-consciousness, meaning punctuation is not his friend. I pretty much just go over each piece, put in commas, periods, and things of that nature, and make it easier for the average person to digest, so that his opinion of the film in question is what is noticed, not any missing punctuation or incorrect grammar. I think I'll have to write an entry for Dancer in the future for Unseen.)

My biggest Björk phase came in the late 1990's and early 2000's. Homogenic, her third post-Sugarcubes solo effort, came out in 1997, and to this day I still consider it to be a near-perfect album. Start to finish, every track is some level of wonderful, amazing, fantastic, and other superlatives I just can't come up with at the moment. It was a real turning point for her as well, because while Debut was comprised of songs she had written while in the Sugarcubes, and Post (her second post-Sugarcubes effort) was written sort of as a reaction to that, Homogenic was the first album she wrote as a completely clean slate. She felt her true musical direction was just starting with that era. It was radically different from anything she had ever done before...and indeed anything ANYONE had ever done before. The bizarre marriage of melodic and soft strings with thundering, throbbing, pulsing beats, combined with her beautiful but incredibly strong and emotive voice, made for a stunning album that I still find compelling today. I don't often listen to albums straight thru anymore, what with iPods and iPhones and iTunes always being in shuffle mode, but often when a track from that comes on, I'll switch over to hear some, if not all, of Homogenic.

And it didn't end there. Many artists, for European and Japanese releases, produce extra tracks that don't accompany the North American releases of their albums. Björk had put out enough b-side material for her first 3 albums to make 3 MORE albums. And the stuff for Homogenic was all incredible. There was a James Bond theme cover, You Only Live Twice, that was supposed to be released on a star-studded compilation album of Bond theme covers...only she pulled hers at the last minute, apparently because she felt it just wasn't good enough, or not as good as the Nancy Sinatra original, of which she is a big fan. As many artists are wont to be, she was being too hard on herself, because it's a beautiful rendition of a terrific song...and I'm not a fan of the Bond films. It was recorded in the Homogenic era, so I've always lumped it in with that, even though it wasn't "officially" done for that.

Another incredible Homogenic b-side song is So Broken, which is just her accompanied by 2 Flamenco guitarists...truly wonderful, and the live piece I've linked to is testament to her talent as well as just how great a piece of music it is.

There are other b-sides that range from whimsical (Scary) to angry (Sod Off) to gut-wrenching (her live cover of Gloomy Sunday), but the track that has the most meaning for me is back on the actual album. The final song on Homogenic, All Is Full Of Love, was remixed many times, including for the video...and all are vastly INFERIOR to the version that was put on the album. The album version (itself a remix by Howie B, which I can't seem to find a link to...) has a soothing, hypnotic quality to it that relaxes you to a point of being capable of opening up and seeing the beauty of the world around you. I have very vivid memories of specific wonderful moments that happened to me as this song was playing. One involved walking in a gentle rain shower on a warm summer day while delivering a route in a beautiful tree lined area of Long Island, New York, and the other happened as I was driving thru the plains of southern Quebec on my way to Montreal, and saw a rainbow off to one side. Both times, due to taking in the lyrics, the gentleness of the song, and the beauty of the moment I was in, made me realize how wonderful life could be, if you just let it.

On a related note, for some reason, most, if not all, of the women who have ever been in my life have had an extreme dislike of Björk. I've never really understood why...

Blog Post Soundtrack; Björk (...duh...), John Frusciante, Blondie, Scatterbrain, The Slits, Pearl Jam (live), The Beastie Boys, The Waitresses, Alice In Chains, The Chemical Brothers, Santana, The White Stripes, Colonel Claypool's Bucket Of Bernie Brains, Testament, The Misfits, Social Distortion (covering a Bo Diddley track), The Ramones, Joe Walsh, and most of the Homogenic album by Björk

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