Following the massive success of both Debut and Post was always going to be tough. Whilst these albums were full of variety covering a wide range of emotions, Bjork with Homogenic provided her most challenging work to date, and also her darkest.
In the years following Post, up to the release of Homogenic, Bjork experienced a failed relationship with the drum ‘n’ bass specialist Goldie, had a punch-up with a journalist in Bangkok and suffered from a crazed stalker who tried to send a mail bomb to her home in London, and who subsequently shot himself in the face whilst Bjork videos were playing in the background and a sheet of white paper with one of her lyrics was hung behind him in order to be splattered with the blood. Artsy. What he didn’t know however, was that Bjork was not at that time in London, but staying only a couple of blocks away from where he shot himself, and understandably, when she heard this it completely freaked her out. All of these events made her reassess her life and move back to Iceland where the majority of the songs from Homogenic were born.
The character of Homogenic, as depicted in the cover art, Bjork describes as someone who has been through ordeal after ordeal in the city, and retires home and becomes something of a recluse (much like the character depicted in Isobel), only to re-emerge as a warrior, fighting back not with weapons, but with love. With the majority of beats in the songs comprised of the natural unstable sounds of her homeland; volcanic sounds, geysers etc (these sounds were recorded and then processed), and sweeping patriotic strings, Homogenic is quite a sparse record that immediately brings to mind the image of extreme landscapes and emotions.
A perfect opening track, Hunter provides a fitting introduction to the themes of Homogenic. Layers of reversed instruments, vocal ooh’s and soft but steady beats provide the accompaniment to Bjork’s lyrics. As she sings [i]”I’m going hunting”[i] the strings become more prominent before leading into a fantastic middle section where Bjork harmonizes with her own reversed vocals and the strings rise up accordingly. The song then slowly fades away with the lyric ”I’m the hunter”
repeated until there’s nothing but the percussion left leading the song out. A great song, but it took me a while to appreciate it. 4/5
Hmm…where to begin? This is probably my favourite song of all time. The second the strings introduce the song; the shivers are already going down my spine. This song, to me at least, showcases what Homogenic is all about. There are the patriotic strings and the volcanic, unstable beats swirling just below the surface. It’s a song dedicated to her best friend (Joga) who stood by her through everything and apparently pushes her up to ‘‘this state of emergency”
which is luckily ‘‘where I want to be”
. I love the breakdown of beats in this song which then leads to the strings fading back in, and one of Bjork’s little laughs just as the song fades out. 5/5 (I’d give it more if I could)
A very sparse song, in which Bjork sings of a love between two people unravelling whilst one of them is away. It’s a beautiful song with sad undertones as she mentions the devil stealing their love and never returning it. “So when you come back, we’ll have to make new love”
The song itself features a slow pulsating beat with little in the way of instrumentation, the focus being on the vocals. There are however, some nice reversed strings, which leads into an organ of some kind which brings the song to a close. 4.5/5
This is another album highlight. Looking for some suitably epic lyrics, Bjork turned to her long time poet-friend Sjon to help with the lyrics. The music is just as epic with the angry strings placed alongside a heavy grand piano melody and timpani hammering away in the background. The vocals showcase Bjork’s talent and become increasingly intense. Credit to Sjon for the lyrics which go from “I’m a fountain of blood, in the shape of a girl’ to I’m a tree that grows heart, one for each that you take. You’re the intruder’s hand, I’m the branch that you break.”
The song ends with Bjork giving one of her vocal releases before it all fades out. 5/5
All Neon Like
After a song like Bachelorette, this brings the volume down somewhat. It’s a very icy song with harsh beats over a generally subdued vocal. The beats themselves tend to be slightly irritating as there is little variation and they are very prominent in the song. I much prefer the live version where they are toned down slightly. Having said that though, it is a good song with a nice chilly climax. Not an awful lot to say about this one. 4/5
A song reputedly about her ex, Goldie. She sounds pretty angry. Another song with great percussion; the beats sounding explosive and Bjork even more so. There isn’t a great deal of variation in the lyrics but the delivery becomes more intense with each verse until Bjork is practically screaming “I’m so bored with cowards, who say the want love, then they can’t handle”
’ The chorus follows in a similar fashion to the verse with an emphasis on strings as opposed to vocals so that after the last verse you are met with a beautiful string section melody that is almost contradictory in nature. It works perfectly though. 4.5/5
One of Bjork’s weakest tracks in my opinion. The simple upscale melody and Bjork’s slightly irritating and uninspired vocal melody is saved only by her delivery and the slightly funky second verse. As she sings “How could I be so immature”
strong emphasis is placed on each word and so it all feels rather drawn out and forced. Like I said though, it is a strong vocal performance as the song nears its climax, but the strength of the other tracks on the album tends to mean this one is all but forgotten. 3/5
Completely out of sync with the rest of the album in terms of mood, this song nevertheless is quite catchy. With stuttering beats and Bjork’s erratic vocals, it makes for an interesting listen, and the album version is far superior to the slightly crap video version of the song that was released as a single. In this song, Bjork oozes frustration and sings of an urge to “free the human race from suffering”
over the repetition of “It doesn’t scare me at all
’ As I said, a bit of an odd track, but the subject matter (“This is an alarm call, so wake up wake up now”
) means it’s a fitting intro to Pluto. 4/5
Another album highlight and probably the best example of Bjork’s vocal talents to be found on Homogenic. The uncompromising and harsh techno beats make it quite a difficult listen at first but the payoff is great with Bjork venting all her emotion out in a series of unbelievable vocal releases. The strings provide an uncomfortable backdrop to a completely unique Bjork song (similar in a way to Where Is The Line from Medulla). This song is the emotional climax of the album as she sings “Excuse me, but I just have to explode. Explode this body”
All Is Full of Love
Different to the video version, this song features none of the electronic beats except for a steady pulsing that is heard throughout. The production gives the song a suitably airy, spacious feel. Bjork has said that if Pluto represents a huge inner explosion, All Is Full of Love represents the sun just beginning to shine through again. It’s a good description of the song, but there is little else to describe. The song mainly consists of many overlappings of Bjork singing the title, each phrase swirling around the other. A perfect album closer and a brilliant track in itself. 5/5
Overall, this is a tremendous album and one of my overall favourites. It’s a suitable introduction to Bjork, although Post is equally as suitable. It’s been hugely inspirational to me, and contains a few of my all-time favourite songs. I would recommend it to anyone. Sorry, but I feel I’ve rambled a fair amount in this review.