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Tunes

Best tunes of 1993: #14 Björk “Human behaviour”

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Has there ever been a performance by an artist, be it of just the one song or their whole set, that completely changed your perception of them? For me, there have been several of these, some of them introductions and some reintroductions. Björk’s performance of “Human behaviour” was one such personal and almost spiritual experience and it wasn’t even a set that I witnessed live, that’s how transformative it was. I can only imagine how it must been for those who witnessed it in the flesh.

I distinctly remember hearing Björk on alternative radio and a big deal being made of her solo debut album, cheekily titled “Debut”. I knew from hearsay that she had been in a band called The Sugarcubes but I wouldn’t properly discover and explore that band’s catalogue and understand what it all meant until many years later. Many of my friends and passing acquaintances throughout the 90s were huge Björk fans, bordering on obsessive and on my side, I also liked pretty much everything I heard, which was quite a lot given how popular she was becoming in the alternative rock realm. I also remember being super impressed by her acting turn in the Lars Von Trier feel-bad movie, 2000’s “Dancer in the dark”. In fact, the music for that film was also so great that the soundtrack by Björk (“Selmasongs”) would be the first album of hers that I would own on CD. After that, though, her art explorations tended to diverge with my own musical tastes and we grew apart.

At some point in the late 2000s, I picked up the Julien Temple directed documentary on “Glastonbury” at the Ottawa Public Library and brought it home with me to watch. I’d always heard that the British music festival was the holy grail of music festivals and based on the lineups that have graced its stages over the years, I’d had held a reverence for it, always dreaming of attending. I was held rapt for the film’s two plus hours and found myself watching a ton of the bonus features, including uncut sets of the some of the iconic performances there over the years. One of these was Björk’s 1994 appearance there, specifically her performance of “Human behaviour”. It was the embodiment of childlike exuberance and animalistic intensity, exuding both sensuality and innocence. She was pixie-like in a slinky pink slip of a dress, racing and marching and flitting about the stage when she wasn’t blowing the speakers wide open with that unique and powerful voice of hers. It further fuelled my desire to go to Glastonbury (which I have yet to do) and forced on me a Björk rethink. I started collecting her early albums on CD and even managed to see her perform live in 2013.

“If you ever get close to a human
And human behaviour
Be ready, be ready to get confused
There’s definitely, definitely, definitely no logic”

Though it is not the only great tune on the aforementioned debut, “Human behaviour” now has its hold on me as my bar none favourite from album. It was track one and released as the first single and incidentally, was written a good five years before its release, back when Björk was still leading The Sugarcubes. It is synth, sample, and percussion heavy, rhythm as a melody, industrial dance, playing second fiddle to Björk, the voice, the magician and artist and shaman. A song that could grace and cross dancefloors of many ilks, high culture, pop culture, low culture, and everything in between.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1993 list, click here.

Categories
Vinyl

Vinyl love: R.E.M. “Out of time”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: R.E.M.
Album Title: Out of time
Year released: 1991
Year reissued: 2016
Details: 25th anniversary, 180 gram vinyl

The skinny: Going backwards through R.E.M.’s discography more than 25 years after each album was released, we have the benefit of hindsight. When their 7th studio album was released in 1991, “Out of time” felt like the Athens, Georgia quartet were at their peak. Of course, when set alongside the focus of last week’s ‘Vinyl love’ post, it feels a bit uneven and of its time, rather than out of it. Still, it has some amazing tunes – “Losing my religion”, “Low”, “Near wild heaven”, “Belong”, and yes, even the ultra-technicolor “Shiny happy people” – and it was a huge commercial success for a band that had taken a break from touring to focus on studio recordings. This was the first of the 25th anniversary reissues I picked up on in advance of its release. Much like the others we’ve already seen in this series, it is remastered from the original analog masters and pressed to audiophile, 180 gram vinyl. Another must have for an alt-rock music fan like myself

Standout track: “Losing my religion”

Categories
Vinyl

Vinyl love: R.E.M. “Automatic for the people”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: R.E.M.
Album Title: Automatic for the people
Year released: 1992
Year reissued: 2017
Details: 25th anniversary, 180 gram vinyl

The skinny: Unlike the focus of last week’s ‘Vinyl love’ post in this mini R.E.M. series, there was no hesitation in pulling the pre-order trigger when the 25th anniversary vinyl reissue of the band’s eighth studio album was announced. Much like the other two we’ve seen thus far, it was pressed to 180 gram vinyl and remastered, this time from the original analog masters, and man, does it sound great. “Automatic for the people” was recorded by the band while its predecessor was still climbing the pop charts and further making the band a household name. This one also did very well critically and commercially but it’s noticeably darker and in my mind, more cohesive. “Automatic” is, without comparison, my favourite R.E.M. album. Each side is perfectly balanced. I love every tune. There are no weak links. I have spun it countless times since I received it in the post almost five years ago and I imagine it will forever remain the record by this band that will hit my turntable the most.

Standout track: “Nightswimming”