Sunday, 21 June 2020

The Lockdown posts: The WYCRA 200 articles #2

A few weeks after I wrote the Manics article, SWC and Badger asked me for another contribution and I was tasked with writing about someone who I'd followed since my first year in college aged just 16. I duly obliged with this piece.

THE WYCRA 200 #75
Human Behaviour - Björk

You couldn't make it up really. When I got involved in the boys' shenanigans involving their fave songs ever, the planets just sort of aligned. They sent me a song by the Manic Street Preachers, not only one of my fave bands, but practically local to my current place of residence. My long-running Welsh Wednesday series over at my place was still going, and Wales were taking Euro 2016 by storm. So I offered to do another one for them, and what happens? Badger only goes and send me a Björk track. I love Björk. No, I don't actually. I fucking ADORE her. I was also planning to do a series on the Icelandic music scene, and Iceland had also taken Euro 2016 by storm. Coincidence?

I remember when Human Behaviour came out (June 1993). I had been a massive fan of the Sugarcubes and Björk was, for me, the quirkiest pop star on the planet. I was gutted when they split as I had never managed to see them live, and let's face it, three albums was simply not enough. You can imagine my excitement when I heard Björk was going solo and that within a year of the 'Cubes break-up, her first single would be out.

I don't know why, but I was expecting something very different to Human Behaviour, something - I dunno - more indie? The final Sugarcubes release was a brilliant album of remixes featuring some of the top producers of the time (Justin Robertson, Todd Terry, Marius deVries, etc) so I should have been prepared for something a little more electronic I suppose. But no, I heard Human Behaviour and my heart sunk.

There was a girl who worked in the indie record shop I spent far too much time and money in who, for some reason, had a massive crush on me. I found her a little scary, mainly because she was a few years older than me, and I'd never had anyone take such an interest in me like that before. One afternoon, she dropped by my work and gave me a bag that clearly had a record in it. "I got you a present," she said. "I thought of you when it came in." It was the 12" of Human Behaviour.

I've come to like Human Behaviour quite a bit in the intervening years. Those timpani drums that echo throughout in time (and tune) with the bass make it sound all brooding and ominous. There's a lot of cool stuff going on in it, and it's not all that electronic-sounding really. Some nice growling guitars, an understated rustling snare drum and, of course, Björk's voice at the centre of it all. It's masterfully put together, a great production by Nellee Hooper. In fact, it's not unlike Massive Attack in places, probably for that reason.

The album - craftily-titled 'Debut', even though it was actually Björk's second solo effort, following some 16 years after this - sounds rather dated to these ears nowadays. Human Behaviour still stands up, probably because it is the least electronic track on it. I also still love Crying. But the trouble with electronic music is that it rarely stands the test of time, the sounds get left behind as the technology changes. A lot of 'Debut' suffers from that, I reckon.

I have grown into Björk's solo career over the years. 'Biophilia' is one of my favourite records of the decade - Crystalline floors me every time - and she remains one of pop's most interesting characters at a time when people making pop records have become so incredibly dull and boring. Maybe one day she'll run out of ideas and call it a day, but I doubt it'll be any time soon.

Oh, in case you were wondering about the girl from the record shop and I - it didn't really develop. She was a nice girl and all, but really not my type. I suppose I could have strung her along in the hope of getting more free records, but I'm not that kind of guy. Not exactly SWC and Our Price Girl, I'm afraid...

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