I’ve been lucky enough to be a guest contributor over at the ongoing series at When You Can’t Remember Anything in which S-WC and Badger run through 200 great songs. As indeed has The Robster who penned some wonderful words about Human Behaviour which then extended out into his thoughts on Debut:-
I remember when Human Behaviour came out (June 1993). I had been a massive fan of the Sugarcubes and Björk was, for me, the quirkiest pop star on the planet. I was gutted when they split as I had never managed to see them live, and let’s face it, three albums was simply not enough. You can imagine my excitement when I heard Björk was going solo and that within a year of the ‘Cubes break-up, her first single would be out.
I don’t know why, but I was expecting something very different to Human Behaviour, something – I dunno – more indie? The final Sugarcubes release was a brilliant album of remixes featuring some of the top producers of the time (Justin Robertson, Todd Terry, Marius deVries, etc) so I should have been prepared for something a little more electronic I suppose. But no, I heard Human Behaviour and my heart sunk.
I’ve come to like Human Behaviour quite a bit in the intervening years. Those timpani drums that echo throughout in time (and tune) with the bass make it sound all brooding and ominous. There’s a lot of cool stuff going on in it, and it’s not all that electronic-sounding really. Some nice growling guitars, an understated rustling snare drum and, of course, Björk’s voice at the centre of it all. It’s masterfully put together, a great production by Nellee Hooper. In fact, it’s not unlike Massive Attack in places, probably for that reason.
The album – craftily-titled ‘Debut’, even though it was actually Björk’s second solo effort, following some 16 years after this [https://www.discogs.com/Bj%C3%B6rk-Gu%C3%B0mundsd%C3%B3ttir-Bj%C3%B6rk/master/1870] – sounds rather dated to these ears nowadays. Human Behaviour still stands up, probably because it is the least electronic track on it. I also still love Crying. But the trouble with electronic music is that it rarely stands the test of time, the sounds get left behind as the technology changes. A lot of ‘Debut’ suffers from that, I reckon.
Reading that led me to dig deep into the vaults of the few postings kicking around from the old blog and to offer this alternative view that I put up back in October 2009:-
I was an admirer of the music released by The Sugarcubes in as much that I bought singles and albums, but usually a few weeks or months after they had been released rather than on the day they hit the shops.
I was slightly sorry to learn of their break-up in 1992, and while I was interested to hear that their female lead singer was going to pursue a solo career I didn’t think it was one that would have a big impact outside of her native Iceland…….(glad I never put a bet on that one at the bookies)
This was another of the records that I first heard snippets of in a record shop while browsing. I recognised that Bjork was singing, but my first assumption was that she was doing guest vocals for someone else. It was only after the third or fourth track in row to feature her talents that I thought there was more to it, and this was confirmed by the ever-friendly indie-store sales assistant. He also told me that in the week or so since the CD had arrived in the shop it had been on very heavy rotation as it was that rare beast – ie an album that found favour with all four folk who worked in the shop.
I told him I was a fan of her former band – he replied that it was nothing at all like any of the old stuff. And he also offered me, as a well-known face in the shop who spent something in the region of £40 a week on CDs, a free copy over the weekend that I could bring back on Monday morning if I didn’t like it. And if I did…..well it would be added to my next bill.
I don’t know how many times the CD was played over the course of that Friday night, the Saturday and the Sunday, suffice to say that not many other things got a look in.
Debut is a record that shifts from one music genre to another with the greatest of ease, class and style (another record that I think does the same is Boat To Bolivia by Martin Stephenson & The Daintees). As such, it is impossible to get bored with it. It’s a combination of the songwriting genius of Ms Gudmunsdottir and magical production from Nellee Hooper (and no I haven’t forgotten that he also co-wrote at least half of the songs).
I listened to this album in its entirety again in the last hour, something I probably haven’t done in 10 or so years. It has not dated one bit whatsoever. It still made me smile, it made me dance and it stopped me in my tracks and made me think about loved ones present and past.
It’s a truly remarkable piece of work.
It was an album that was a slow-burner. It spent ages in the UK charts but never got any higher than #3. Four singles were taken from it, and in a strange reversal from the norm, they reached progressively higher chart positions, with the lead-off Human Behaviour hitting #36 in June 1993. Venus As A Boy touched #29 in August, while Big Time Sensuality climbed to #17 on its release in November. However, in March 1994, Violently Happy reached #13.
If you don’t own this record, do something about it.
So there you are.
Two contrasting views from bloggers whose tastes tend to be quite similar. Incidentally, I’m not saying I’m right and that The Robster is wrong….I just felt it was a good way of illustrating the diverse opinions that can exist and why the whole notion of simply liking or disliking a piece of music just because someone else has said something good or bad about it is utter bollocks.
It’s also why I believe anyone with a taste or passion for music should never be afraid to express their views and thoughts…..and if you want to do so via a guest posting on T(n)VV then don’t be slow at coming forward.
In the meantime……
PS : Talking of WYCRA, word reaches me that Badger is on the mend after a wee bit of surgery. It’s also likely that S-WC, having moved house and got his wi-fi up and running more quickly than he expected, may be posting again, if not today then in the near future. It’s only been a few days but they have been missed.