BJORK – Homogenic

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"In many ways, Homogenic, released in September 1997, was the sound of Björk retreating from the spotlight after the huge success of Debut and Post – albeit in a combative way. Having lived in London throughout her initial solo success and after much-publicised relationships with Tricky and Goldie, she moved to Malaga in Spain and then back home to Iceland to work on the songs that would eventually become Homogenic. From the album cover – Björk representing a king of warrior mother-figure who, as she put it, fought wars with love – down to the stripping back of her sound to just beats and strings, this was no outlandish bid for more fame but, rather a fight back against the extraneous forces that fame had brought with it.

It is, at times, an incredibly confrontational album. For Björk, Homogenic was a return to her Icelandic roots; she wanted the beats to sound volcanic, for the strings and the lyrics to be almost comically epic, and for the album to be a modern take on Icelandic pop. As a result the whole thing bristles with a wonderfully joyous drama – from the movie soundtrack-esque strings of the poetic Bachelorette ("I'm a tree that grows hearts, one for each that you take") to the industrial maelstrom of Pluto, a song she likened to being rip-roaringly drunk and wanting to destroy everything. The dramatic sweep of first single Joga depicts the extremities of emotion, with Björk being pushed to a "state of emergency", almost breathless with sheer joy. It also features two songs that sum up perfectly the emotional wasteland left after a break-up: 5 Years is Björk's blunt kiss-off to a former lover (thought to be Tricky) while Immature is a more reflective admonishment complete with the lyric: "How could I be so immature to think he could replace the missing elements in me?"

The emotional spectrum is completed by the almost heart-stoppingly beautiful Unravel, which finds Björk conjuring up the image of love, if left untended, unravelling like a ball of yarn, the hope being that it can be remade or reshaped into something new. Musically, it strips everything out to leave funereal church organ, a distorted saxophone sigh and a distant metronomic beat. It was, to my young ears, almost uncomfortably exposed and it was this ease with which she was able to talk about emotions that connected with me. I felt buttoned up and repressed at that point in my life and Björk – all freewheeling energy and with a brilliantly fuck-you attitude ("I'm no fucking buddhist, but this is enlightenment" goes a line in Alarm Call) – had managed to unlock something that made me realise not only that there's joy to be found in all sorts of music, but that it's a good idea to take risks. I was drawn to Homogenic for a reason I couldn't fathom at that time, but it represented escapism, alien emotions and a route through which I could make discoveries of my own."  

- Michael Cragg, Pitchfork


A1 Hunter
A2 Jóga
A3 Unravel
A4 Bachelorette
A5 All Neon Like
B1 5 Years
B2 Immature
B3 Alarm Call
B4 Pluto
B5 All Is Full Of Love