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Björk - Homogenic CD (album) cover

HOMOGENIC

Björk

 

Crossover Prog

3.81 | 158 ratings

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Finnforest
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars "Excuse me, but I just have to explode" -Pluto

Indeed. Homogenic was Bjork's third 90s album and a period of some turmoil for the now international star. It was recorded in Spain to get some distance from press coverage of an unfortunate stalker incident which greatly upset the singer. Coming off the long Post tour Bjork was exhausted, dealing with another failed high-profile relationship, and suffering more bad press after she assaulted a reporter who tried to interview her at the Bangkok airport. It also marked the beginning of her musical relationship with producer Mark Bell, whom Bjork called one of the most influential people in her artistic life. After two albums of chasing her musical whims wherever they would lead, she wanted something very different here. This album was to be Bjork in the "here and now" with a singular flavor, simple sounds ("just beats, strings, and my voice"), and a desire to capture the spirit of her native Iceland. She was growing weary of England and was ready to go home, physically and creatively.

As with Post, despite the critical acclaim this album has received it is a mostly disappointing affair for me. Homogenic features one of Bjork's greatest songs, perhaps her very best, a handful of good songs, and another half-album of irritating clunkers. I'm not buying the exclamations of progressive-electronic genius that she garners. There's nothing compelling to a bunch of sampled beats if the songs and melodies aren't there for some emotional connection, or if the compositions merely ride the back of the beats with little exciting diversion. Homogenic does succeed in its attempt to be a more cohesive work, where the songs connect with each other rather than the collections of different animals her first two albums were. But that alone doesn't mean much for me as a listener. Sometimes her songwriting just drowns itself in too much nonsense and other times it can't get out of its own way. I'm not surprised to read some have complained about her rather indecisive and perfectionist tendencies in the studio.

Cold and alternately boring or irritating, I can completely write off the second half of the album. This is what is known as the "front-loaded" album, where the first few tracks are pretty cool but it just dies after that. Bjork and Bell employ some genius track ordering that allowed them to stretch a few good songs into a critically acclaimed album, and I have to call them on it. Very few people will, and this abrasive and largely hollow album gets unbelievable accolades considering what is really under the hood. I can barely listen to the childish rant over nails-on-chalkboard music that is "5 Years." The only interesting part of the second half is "Pluto", where she uses her voice as pure tension-building and release, almost grating screams, it is very intense indeed. The album's worthwhile moments come in the first four songs, when some very lovely melodies that capture her love of home (especially effective with the videos) are lavished with the strings of the Icelandic String Octet. And then comes the album's lone masterpiece, the incredible "Bachelorette." This track is the musical sequel to Post's wonderful "Isobel," and follows the story of the same character. A gorgeous melody oozes to a perfect pace and strong bass line, with her vocal absolutely soaring over the cliffs, and the strings welling up behind her. Powerful stuff and an indication of what she is capable of.

Nevertheless, I'll have to be the party-pooper, because aside from "Batchelorette" this album is just nothing special. It's a noisy, emotionally cold mess. I love Bjork's voice on certain songs when she pierces the cumbersome wall of disarray, stuttering beats, and noisy screech; when she embraces the melody and does something with it, but unfortunately that happens only sporadically on Post and Homogenic. Fortunately, things were to get better on the next album, a much more personable release called "Vespertine." There the promise of "Debut" would return. 2 ½ stars for this one-but not enough to round up.

Finnforest | 2/5 |

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