I was in the car listening to this album today and thinking about how absolutely incredible it is. I would without a doubt have to say this is one of my top 5 favourite albums of all time. Björk is one of my favourite artists ever, and books could be written on her genius, her music, and her career (in fact there are several! This is one I’ve been dying to get, the first real book that is focused on the music itself: Björk) But for now I choose to focus on the brilliance and musical experience that is Homogenic.
Homogenic is Björk’s fourth studio album, released in September 1997. The album marked a change in her music’s style, a more trip-hop/electronica sound with acoustic stringed instruments. Before we even begin to talk about the album, we must talk about the album cover: themes of the album are reflected in the album cover designed by Alexander McQueen. Björk had approached McQueen explaining to him the person who wrote Homogenic‘s songs was someone who “had to become a warrior. A warrior who had to fight not with weapons, but with love. I had 10 kilos of hair on my head, and special contact lenses and a manicure that prevented me from eating with my fingers, and gaffer tape around my waist and high clogs so I couldn’t walk easily”. Grant Scott says, “It’s an amazing composition: every element balances; every line leads where it should, all framing an enigmatic face, staring into your eyes through artificially-wide pupils”, about the cover taken by photographer Nick Knight. I have seen Homogenic‘s cover praised highly in many photo magazine articles as well, and is always high on any list of “best album covers”.
Now on to the music! The music of Homogenic is simply cosmic. From start to finish the album is a work of genius. The beats are raw, the sound worlds created by Björk are – to quote the album’s “Jóga” – ’emotional landscapes’ that could only come from Iceland, and only from Björk. “Jóga”, the second track on the album, is one of my favourite, and one of 5 singles to come from the album. Written with Icelandic poet Sjón, because Björk wanted to have “epic” lyrics – and this is without doubt achieved. The song is so emotional, so entrancing. I must share a video of PS22 chorus singing this:
I cried when I first saw this. Firstly, there needs to be more music educators like this man. These kids are feeling this song, and singing it with emotions which I never thought possible in children of their ages. The most amazing part is some of their faces as they sing, and how the song can inspire then to feel such musical passion.
“Bachelorette” is without doubt my favourite song on the album, and one of my absolute favourite songs of all time. Sometimes I listen to it over and over. The lyrics are simply incredible. Just an amazing piece of poetry. The heavy beat throughout the song is something that moves me. It is hypnotic. I can’t help but drift away into another world of music ecstasy when I listen. I can’t even put into words how much I love this song. And the video is another brilliant piece of art. Funny story: when listening to this one evening with a bunch of friends, a good friend and I both envisioned this music playing behind the orgy seen of the Penthouse movie Caligula. (X-rated so I won’t post a vid!) but for those who are curious, hunt down a clip of that scene and play this song with it. It’s uncanny.
“Alarm Call”, the album’s 8th track, contains one of my favourite stanzas in all music lyric history: “I want to go on a mountain-top /With a radio and good batteries/And play a joyous tune and/Free the human race/From suffering”. Something about that just speaks truth. The song of course is amazing and it has another amazing video. The remix for the video is different from the video, and I prefer the original on the album, but they are both great!
Now you cannot talk about his album, or Björk’s videos and not mention “All is Full of Love”. The song is ambient bliss. It completely envelops you. The electronic sounds and flow are painfully sensual. The video is one of the greatest videos of all time. As a piece of art it is on permanent display in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art. Incredible. The video is just as sensual as the song. This is a video that everyone must watch at least once in their lives. The remix for the video is for me much preferred to the album’s, the one remix I wish had been on the album instead! I once watched this video at least ten times with my good friend Monique, overwhelmed by it’s pure sensuality.
Homogenic has been hailed as critics as one of the greatest albums of all time. Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine calls it “if not the greatest electronic album of all time, it’s certainly the greatest of its decade”.