Thursday, November 15, 2007

[027] Post

Album: Post
Artist: Björk
Release Date: June 1995
Label: One Little Indian/Elektra
Producers: Björk, Nellee Hooper, Graham Massey, Tricky & Howie B.

"Look at the speed out there
It magnetizes me to it
And I have no fear
I'm only into this to enjoy"
- from "Enjoy"

It seems like every week I write these entries, and I repeat myself. Yesterday, I was talking all about post-this and post-that, and today we have Post; likewise I mentioned Dr. Dre sampling the “When The Levee Breaks” beat, which is also one of the first sounds your hear on Ms. Björk’s sophomore album. Now, this vaguely funnels into my overarching point on Post - I think Björk’s worldly, sponge-like ability to pull influences from a wide variety of sources is what’s appealing about her, and this album specifically; as utterly original as her sound and instinct is, both the personalities of her collaborators and the implications of her personal taste show through on every project. I would venture a guess that this is most of her fans’ favorite album in her catalog because there is a sense of pure joy in hearing that process. Also, I’d say Post is the most flattering, most accessible collection of her songs for the rest of the world to see her in a positive light, as opposed to her in a swan dress or her attacking paparazzi – for the casual fan, I’d recommend this album over any of her other CDs. Post suggested that the wild Icelandic siren pixie whatever-she-is might actually be able to be a Pop star. It just feels like how Björk should be seen in the field of Pop music, an eclectic songbird gliding over electro-Fun.

When Björk went solo after The Sugarcubes and made Debut, I think she just made whatever type of music came to her crazy little mind, but when people tried to get a handle on her as an artist, there was a little confusion. I know I was with her when I saw the wonderfully wacky “Human Behaviour” video – and the song sounded like nothing out there – but had a WTF moment when I saw her dancing on a flatbed truck to “Big Time Sensuality”. She was flirting with the dance club as it pertained to the Pop charts, working with Nellee Hooper, who came out of the Massive Attack genepool and had helped make Soul II Soul hit-makers. But Björk’s version of Pop music isn’t the rest of the world’s version, and that’s a good thing. By the time she moved from Iceland to London to make Post, she was immersed in all the new music trends that were emerging, especially the Trip-Hop of Massive Attack and Portishead, as well as the bright lights of the big city – Reykjavík isn’t a trailer park, but it isn’t London either, especially not the newly re-swinging London of 1994. The choice of cover art even reveals the intent of her new music; Postwas kitschy widescreen neon Technicolor thrown up onto the drab Debut, and the legions of sad-sacks in flannel and Les Pauls wandering around the CD shelves at the time. Her thirst for new sounds and grooves would guide her to being one of music’s greatest chameleons, in the tradition of David Bowie, Prince, and Madonna, but the difference with Björk is that most people see her as way more bonkers, a little tree-nymph from a storybook forest.

Considering this fairytale-like creature that Björk is supposed to be, she appears to be, lyrically at least, dealing with relationships in a distinctly human way. She just picks different words than you would, while letting the music break the molds. “Army Of Me” seethes indictments at a weak lover, demanding “Self-sufficience, please!” from a man lacking a backbone, all over an industrial churn featuring that “Levee” beat – cut for hurry-up offense – and the rolling bass of Massive Attack’s “Safe From Harm” chewed up and turned inside out; it’s probably the heaviest song of the 90’s without any guitar. “You’ve Been Flirting Again” makes its stand on the other end of the spectrum, as fragile as can be over nothing but a string section, with a lyric that examines the eggshells underfoot in the aftermath of infidelity. On the gorgeous heartbreaker “Hyper-ballad”, still one of her finest songs, she is clear and concise in her narrative of a woman confronting her (possibly suicidal) insecurities in a relationship by chucking her stuff off a cliff and watching it soar down to the rocks below, all before her lover wakes in the morning; its laid over a pitter-patter of brushed snares and twinkling stars of synth blips and computer burps. And then the soaring strings swoop in to join the unsure relief of Björk’s chorus, and as the strings lift the song to the heavens, the pulsating house beat crashes down, transforming a spectral ballad into a rave epic, a revelatory classic for all times.

The genius of opening Post with the vortex of “Army of Me” and “Hyper-ballad” allows no turning back from the wonderland of jazzy Trip-Hop and cartoon adventures on the rest of the album. “The Modern Things” skips around like Smurfs, munchkins and whistling dwarves, mumbling something about cars waiting in mountains and dinosaurs. The Betty Hutton big-band cover, “It’s Oh So Quiet” sets further out in this fairytale land, knocking the audience back with cries of Zing! Boom! Wow! Bam!, while “Isobel” is the orchestral centerpiece, a fairytale within a fairytale. The dark, menacing “Enjoy” explores the impulses in loveless sex; a junkyard collaboration with Tricky, the duo punch holes through the overwhelming stew of urban detritus with bright horn stabs. “I Miss You” is the mirror image of “Enjoy”, adorably finding comfort in the discovery of new love, asking “when will I get my cuddle?” – where Tricky’s contribution is downcast and muffled, Björk’s work with Howie B. pushes those bright horns to the fore, sounding like the happiest traffic jam on Earth, pumped up with a buzzing accordion and choppy, propulsive Tito Puente groove. “Possibly Maybe” plays the fence between these two songs, Björk noting in interviews of the time that it was her first foray into darkness. Its sleepy ambience like a peaceful stream running through her dreams, it takes a journey downstream, floating through an entire relationship, from puppy love to odd fetishes to impatience in commitment, leaving the dreamworld Björk to conclude “Since we broke up, I’m using lipstick again; I suck my tongue in remembrance of you”.

Björk closes Post with the minimalism of “Cover Me” and “Headphones” in stark contrast to the preceding circus; the former points to her future, the harpsichord and hammer dulcimer chiming in announcement of the crystalline Vespertine, which wouldn’t come for another six years. The latter, like the rest of the album, requires a good pair of listening earmuffs as she wakes up from her dream by falling asleep, a dozen or so Björks circling around each other. It becomes clear that she is kind of just a regular girl with a big imagination, not a Pop Tinkerbell, although she did sprinkle some magic dust on the world. After Post, everyone wanted to work with her, while Madonna spent the next decade trying to catch up to her, but it was too late, because Björk was now exploring the world of stardom, a whole new world to soak up new ideas, allowing her to stay a few steps in front of everyone.

01. "Army Of Me"
02. "Hyper-Ballad"
03. "The Modern Things"
04. "It's Oh So Quiet"
05. "Enjoy"
06. "You've Been Flirting Again"
07. "Isobel"
08. "Possibly Maybe"
09. "I Miss You"
10. "Cover Me"
11. "Headphones"

"Army Of Me" [video]

"Hyper-ballad" [live on Later with Jools Holland, 1995]

"Isobel" [single edit - video]

"Possibly Maybe" [live at the Royal Opera House, London, 12.01]

- BONUS: "Hyper-ballad" [single edit - video]
- BONUS: "Hyper-ballad" [live at the Royal Opera House, London, 12.01]
- BONUS: "Hyper-ballad" [live at the 2003 Fuji Rock Festival]
Now with Fireworks!!!
- BONUS: "It's Oh So Quiet" [video]
- BONUS: "It's Oh So Quiet" [live on Taratata, 1996]
- BONUS: "You've Been Flirting Again" [in Icelandic; live in Cambridge]
- BONUS: "Isobel" [live at the Royal Opera House, London, 12.01]
- BONUS: "Possibly Maybe" [video]
- BONUS: "Possibly Maybe" [live at the Riverside Church, NYC, 2001]
- BONUS: "I Miss You" [video]
- BONUS: "I Miss You" [live at the 2007 Glastonbury Festival]

1 comment:

Cynthia said...

After I listened to Radiohead cover Unravel I was wondering when I would see Bjork on here. I'm SO excited that it is Post!! I've been waiting for this.