Sunday, May 27, 2007


Bjork Raises Her Own Flag: 85% (for details on the ratings see the Pleasure Meter post)

It's hard out here for music lovers. Music still costs money. And to make matters worse-- as fellow WAS member MitchOWski asked, "When's the last time you really LOVED a song?" And we actually had to think about it.

Well, after a couple weeks of listening and marinating on not only the question, but also Bjork's album Volta, I finally have a proper answer: Tracks 1,2, 3, 5, 6,7 and 9. But who's really counting?

This is Bjork. I expect the trees to start dancing while I'm listening to her album. The earth to tremble. Birds to flap their wings to the beat. A dolphin to jump out of the ocean and land in my eardrums.

The tragedy of innovation is the curse of adulation--the aficionado that wants it faster, smaller, longer, weirder, and right frickin' now! Because deep inside we think you can still take us someplace new...

So, of course, we're expecting a lot, but Volta doesn't disappoint. The starter "Earth Intruders" bangs tribally, and you can almost feel the Bacchae gathering around you as you listen: you almost feel them pinching your skin, whispering "thumping...marching...grinding the sceptics into soil...we are the earth intruders/stampede of resistance/we are the canoneers/necessary voodoo," and as the song crashes to a close, you know Bjork is back again. Like stellar tracks such as "Wanderlust," this song is spritual cousins to "Hunter" and other pounding masterpieces from Homogenic.

But that's a good thing. Or a bad thing.

It's good to know Bjork can still deliver thematically and lyrically, and it's good to see that her Timbaland collaboration wasn't a smoking bust, but there's really nothing new here...a stellar summation, perhaps, of places we've already been....

It took a little while, but I'm now a HUGE fan of "Dull Flame of Desire." For some odd reason, it reminds me of Minnie Ripperton's take on "Light My Fire." It's most likely the way Antony sings: for some odd reason, the timbre of his voice reminds me of Jose Felliciano for some odd reason...The movement of brass reminds me of "Unravel," putting the song on Homogenic territory again. The new thing about this song is the idea of the duet, which Bjork has done sparingly outside of her work with Thom Yorke on Dancer in the Dark. I have to admit that the fact that the lyrics come from Stalker ( a Tarkovsky film, which I haven't yet seen) also add a subtle allure.

"I See Who You Are" sounds like something cut during the Vespertine sessions: a quiet kiss punctuated with melodic blips, Asian harmonics, and a sea of silence. Simply wonderful.

But for me it's "Vertebrae by Vertebrae" that really gets the album started. So here's a concept: How about Bjork singing to a Bernard Herrmann score? Bernard Herrmann scored Psycho and Vertigo. So you get the point. Bjork, like Missy Eliott, has always prided herself on diving into the deep end where most singers see no water at all. And the result, is shockingly beautiful, gorgeously unbelievable. This is the album's best song. It's like she's lost in a Hitchcock film, and there's no way out. Produced by Bjork with Damian Taylor, this song is the best song I've heard all year.

The lyrics are as good, if not better. It's a short story about a woman becoming a werewolf, becoming one with nature, becoming one with herself...which is to say she is "hungry and curious..[and]...looking forward...[to a place where] the air is thinner...." Her growl becomes a howl as the strings stab, and you can almost see her in the moonlight, writhing in existential pain, as she shrieks, "my arms ooze out my shoulders!"

"Pneumonia," the song that follows it, has a beautiful brass arrangement that sound like lost ships calling to each other on a misty sea. Which is appropriate because the song is really a song for lost girls, girls who dared to love, girls that have been broken in so many pieces by so many men that they can't find their way home again. A stunner that completes the most sublime sequence on the album.

"Hope" reminds me of Vespertine again: light arrangement, Eastern harmonic plucking and lyrics about terrorism (WTF!) The less said about this, the better. I'm still deciding how I feel about the lyrics, and the song concept overall, but it's interesting, produced with Timbo, and at least, not standing still thematically.

Then there's "Declare Independence." An anthem that does for Bjork what "If 6 was 9" did for Jimi. There's only one problem here: this anthemic electro-punk song should have been on Homogenic. This statement should have been made soooooo much earlier in her career. In fact, the most amazing thing about this song is the fact that Bjork hadn't done it already. It's as if this was the true sentiment, the invisible ink, swirling in all the words and worlds of all her songs, and she finally said fuck it--i'll just come out and tell you what to fricking do--MAKE YOUR OWN FLAG...RAISE IT HIGHER....HIGHER...DONT LET THEM DO THAT TO YOU!

but perhaps, as in all things, this song is right on time.

Because, as the song throbs and pounds, and Bjork begins to chant down the colonists, you begin to understand what this album was all about. It wasn't for you. You have all her albums. You've seen all her videos. You know this is what she's been singing all along. But there's someone else out there. A new fan, lost in a world of bling and horrible Real World reruns. Someone who is listening to Bjork for the very first time. This young girl has never heard all of the queens and kings that Karen O worships: she's never heard of the Gang of Four or the Clash or the Slits or heard X-Ray Spex or Siouxsie & the Banshees, heard "Free Money" by Patti Smith, or any of the countless anthems by Kate Bush, Sleater Kinney or Liliput.

And this anthem is for them. And I hope these teen rebels love it. And burn this world down. And build a new one.


Dot Techno Mania said...

Very good review. I do feel like these were a bucnh of left overs from all the rest of the albums...She didn't take me to all that new of a place. but the trees were still dancing.

As for "hope" track 8...WHen she is saying "what's the lesser of evil," and all that crazyness and compairing a bunch of the end she has a lyric that says! "Well I don't care love is all!"
Basically devalidating everything she had said.
Cause really who cares! That's the only way I could find a way to like it.

Don't know If I articulated that correctly but I know you already know what I mean.

I can tell you right now....YOU are going to be the person to take us to a new place! except your destiny. I know it is mine as well!

Chuck Lightning said...

Wow, thanks for your response!

And i think your reading is really correct...

"Well, I don't care love is all!"

Yeah, that's it in a nutshell.