Twitter Facebook Instagram Google+ Tumblr YouTube E-Mail WhatsApp Sign In Check Close snapchat
Search
Exit Clear
Playboy Library Playboy Library

The Playboy Library: The Wonderful Eccentricity of Bjork’s ‘Post’

The Playboy Library: The Wonderful Eccentricity of Bjork’s ‘Post’:

It is no secret that fiercely creative people often tend to be a little…eccentric. By that I do not mean “commercially eccentric” such as Lady Gaga’s Meat Dress or “egotistically eccentric” like Axl Rose — you know, an asshole. No, I mean those individuals that clearly are functioning on an entirely different plane than the rest of us: I’m talking Prince, I’m talking Brian Wilson, Michael Jackson, Frank Zappa — like them or not you have to admit there is some next-generation shit going on there.

There are many adjectives to describe Bjork, but honestly, does anything fit more accurately than “eccentric?” The lilting, breathy soprano voice, the freeform melodies and slightly awkward turns of phrase that could only come from someone for whom English is not their primary language; her impish stature, high Icelandic cheekbones and oblong eyes; her sense of style and the visual identity she has cultivated through groundbreaking music videos and artwork. You cannot say, “Bjork reminds me of __________.” She’s Bjork. Singular.

Of course, the tricky thing about eccentrics is timing. You have to catch and harvest the genius stuff in that short span of time between, “They are really outside the box!” and, “Man, they should probably come back inside the box.” Pet Sounds Brian Wilson is otherworldly; Brian Wilson high on coke, demanding to be buried alive —not so much. Thriller/Bad Michael Jackson is legendary; “Baby dangling” Michael Jackson is legendary for completely different reasons.

Bjork isn’t peeing in bottles or buying Elephant Man bones, but musically she has deconstructed her songwriting to such a degree it just isn’t enjoyable to listen to anymore. One can respect it, but it’s hard to enjoy it. I miss the old Bjork. I desperately want to relocate the Bjork featured on her third solo album, Post. It is a snapshot of truly original artist in that magical span of time.

A chance discovery at a school recital lead to her first solo album, Bjork, at the ripe old age of 12. A series of punk and new wave bands followed but for most of the world, our introduction to her was as the spritely lead singer of Sykurmolarnir — Icelandic for The Sugarcubes. Their first album, 1988’s Life’s Too Good, was enthusiastically received. 1989’s Here Today, Tomorrow Next Week! and 1992’s Stick Around For Joy did not fare as well and the band amicably broke up shortly after.

By 1993, Bjork was already moving in a different direction, working with Massive Attack’s wunderkind producer Nelle Hooper on a more danceable, beat-oriented sound, although through Bjork’s filter it could hardly be classified that simply. Debut was named Album of the Year by NME, and its first single, “Human Behavior,” went platinum in the US and is largely credited with introducing electronic dance-pop to the mainstream. From bossa nova samples to Bollywood strings, Debut would only hint at the eclecticism of Post — what many consider the quintessential Bjork album.

Post was, as Bjork referred to it, “musically promiscuous.” That is an understatement. Yet, while all of these varied influences (industrial, big band, trip-hop and more) would seem unfocused coming from another performer, from Bjork — who also enlisted Graham Massey of 808 State and electronica producer/U2 collaborator Howie B. to help shape Post — it somehow all makes sense.

Post begins like a machine gun to the chest with “Army of Me.” A distorted sample of John Bonham shakes the ground as a droning keyboard line like something out of an ‘80s John Carpenter movie sets the ominous tone. From the first word, she is on the offensive:

Stand up
You’ve got to manage
I won’t sympathize
Anymore

And if you complain once more
You’ll meet an army of me
And if you complain once more
You’ll meet an army of me

It is followed by “Hyper-Ballad,” another one of Post’s eventual six singles and it couldn’t be more different than the track that preceded it. Like a Hebrew hymn, its wandering melody doesn’t conform to conventional songwriting; it weaves in and out of the backing track, refusing to give you a hook to hang it on until the sweeping chorus.

“It’s Oh So Quiet” finds her revamping Betty Hutton’s 1951 B-side into a modern, big band Broadway extravaganza. “Possibly Maybe” and the Tricky collaboration “Headphones” perfect the slow-burn electronica first experimented with on Debut, further breaking down the idea of traditional songwriting down to the bare minimum ingredients required to deliver it’s point. Listening to these tracks it’s easy to imagine they were Thom Yorke’s bible while recording Radiohead’s Kid A.

In the years to follow Bjork would continue to push the limits of pop music and songwriting. Homogenic comes close to Post’s majesty, but albums like Vespertine and the entirely vocal based Medulla present themselves more as creative experiments than enjoyable listening experiences.

But if you want a time capsule of a true eccentric at the peak of her creativity, look no further than Bjork’s Post.


More From Playboy Library See all Playboy Library

Playboy Social

Never miss an issue. Subscribe and save today!

Loading...