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Björk - Debut CD (album) cover

DEBUT

Björk

 

Crossover Prog

3.55 | 141 ratings

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Finnforest
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Yet another debut for Bjork

The Crossover Team's recent additions of Tori Amos and Bjork encouraged me to go back and re-immerse myself in music that was a big part of my life in the 1990s, prior to catching the RPI bug in a big way. I'd heard all of this stuff a million times back then but had not played it much in years. Back then I was a much bigger Bjork/Sugarcubes fan than a Tori Amos one. To my surprise, in my revisit it is Amos who has appealed much more. Tori sounds better to me now and feels more emotionally meaningful, whereas Bjork in general sounds more dated, more trivial, more like the quirky art-pop some consider her to be. Tori resonates with me in a more important way, Bjork is more fluff, though fluff can be satisfying in its own way.

That said, "Debut" is a wonderful album and one of my favorites from the Icelandic pop princess, if a bit inconsistent. Bjork was finally free from the constraints of the Sugarcubes, a great band in their own right, but one which I'm sure felt stifling to her by this point. "Debut" is a collection of some songs written as far back as her teenage years as well as some then-current ones written with her new producer. Under her newfound control and personality they come to life in amazing fashion. She would craft her own diverse sound with elements of punk, electronic pop, rock, dance music, and ambient sound. Fresh, vibrant, sensual, and free are words that Debut springs to the mind.

Some of the more lightweight pop is pretty hard for me to sit through these days, things like "Human Behaviour," "Violently Happy," and "Big Time Sensuality." Snoozers. But there are some real gems here. "Crying" has a great funky bass line, catchy as hell. "Venus as a Boy" is one of Bjork's signature songs where she becomes the music. She brings sweet musings of love into an entirely new plane, the unique sounds and flirty vocal delivery is instantly endearing, she has you right in the palm of her hand here. Amazing work. "There's more to life than this" is mischief with the party pixie persona of Bjork doing the dance club stuff. "One Day" is another showcase track with elements of jazz, one which shows the depths of her vocal prowess, as well as her ability to move into more complex and interesting songwriting. "Come to me" sounds like a playful trip-hop track with a sweet chorus. The closing "The Anchor Song" is another highlight, Bjork's amazing voice is stark naked and vulnerable and she just draws you in, the song conjuring such imagery in your head. The lyrics are so beautifully simple and yet have dual meaning, she is singing of a place she loves, but she is also telling us we should all share it...

"I live by the ocean.... and during the night.... I dive into it..."

It's ironic that Bjork's debut was among her most commercially successful albums, a fan favorite certainly, and yet it is one that she's not all that pleased with. That's something she shares with contemporaries like Bush and Amos, who also look back not so fondly at early work. But those albums are very special to me, as they capture these formidable artists before they tasted real success and power. Therein lies humility, surprises, intimacy, and the freshness of youth, coupled with the experience of watching an artist discover herself in real time. And I love that all three albums contain material written when the artists were children, or about experiences of their childhood.

"Debut" is not as strong as "The Kick Inside" or "Little Earthquakes." Half of the album is pretty forgettable, but the good half is truly amazing and solidified her place as an artist worthy of the attention that would soon be awarded her.

Finnforest | 3/5 |

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