Wow! Bam!! | Bjork’s sophomore outing proves she is a creative force like none other.
Bjork was a rising star in the early ninties. The former Sugarcubes member had stellar breakout with the release of her first solo record, Debut, in 1993. The album spawned 4 singles and was critically acclaimed. This not only introduced us to Bjork’s unique sound and distinct vocal style, but her fantastically directed music videos as well. By 1995, Bjork was on to her next project. Her follow up record Post would prove to be better than her last. The album would produce 6 singles over its lifetime and give Bjork her biggest hit to date with the cover of “It’s Oh So Quiet”. Bjork has said in interviews that Debut and Post her love letters to some of her influences and musical interests at the time. Where Debut pays homage to her love of house, jazz and trip-hop music, Post would expand into the realms of industrial music and further develop the influences she toyed with on her prior record. This would be further explored in Post in much more depth.
The industrial influences come through on the album’s opener “Army of Me” and “Enjoy”. Compared to her bubbly outings on Debut, “Army of Me” brings a dar, foreboding energy, “If you complain once more /you’ll meet an army of me…”. In an interview with Sterogum, Bjork described the song’s genesis as the following:
“I had written two tracks with Graham Massey [of 808 State] before I did Debut : “Army Of Me” and “The Modern Things.” .. so I decided to keep those two songs, wait, and put them on the next album… Graham came up with [“Army Of Me’s”] bass riff. I had written that melody earlier in Iceland. It matched very well together, I felt. I then did the sarcastic scratch noises in the chorus with a coin on a deep bass string that Graham sampled for me.”
Bjork would tease the track, along with “The Modern Things”, on the Debut tour in 1993. The song and music video, directed by Michel Gondry, are probably the most recognizable and iconic in her catalog.“Enjoy” really brings in the sounds of a cold industrial location. Co-written with Tricky, this song is filled with heavy synths and beat and samples reminiscent of heavy machinery. Bjork conjures up this girls ready to feed her vices and lose her inhibitions, “Look at the speed out there/ it magnetizes me to it/ and I have no fear/ I’m only into this to enjoy!”. The eruption into the chorus is one of my favorite parts.
The foundational exploration of trip-hop shown in Debut is mastered expertly on Post through “Isobel”, “Possibly Maybe”, and “Headphones”. In order to give the song the proper reverence, Bjork worked with long time collaborator Sjon on the song’s lyrics:
“This is the story of Isobel; she was born in a forest by a spark, and as she grew up, she realized that the pebbles on the forest floor were actually skyscrapers. And by the time she was a grown-up woman and the skyscrapers had taken over the forest. She found herself in a city, and she didn’t like all the people there so much, because they were a bit too clever for her.”
The song is a beautiful blend of strings, synths, and textures. In a way it feels very earthen, like walking through a dense forest only to be kissed by sunlight when strings rise in. Again, Michel Gondry creates a breathtaking video that brings this story to life. “Possibly Maybe” starts with spacey telephone rings that blend into the synths, strings, and slide guitar. The track explores a relationship of possibilities from its inception to its demise and tall the emotions that go along with that. The song was written about the end of Bjork’s relationship with Stéphane Sednaoui, who would go on to direct the music video to the song. “Headphones” is also co-written by Tricky. Bjork’s vocals feel trance like, which create this world between consciousness and unconsciousness. The production also washes over you like a wave of sleep to the calming sound of your favorite song. This track is also a love song to sound itself, “My headphones/ They saved my life/ Your tape/ It lulled me to sleep, to sleep, to sleep…”.
She gets a bit more experimental within the realms of jazz and even classical on the tracks “It’s Oh So Quiet”, “I Miss You”, and “You’ve Been Flirting Again”. “It’s Oh So Quiet” would be her most successful release, making it to number 9 on the US Hot Bubbling Under 100 charts and number 4 on the UK Single charts. The song is a cover of the Betty Hutton song released in 1951. Her trademark growls and fervent vocal technique have made her version the quentitional one. This is must listen off the album. The video, directed by Spike Jonze, is a tongue-and-cheek musical homage.“I Miss You” is a much more playful take on the acid-house jazz genre. The song got it’s start during the debut era, something you can hear in the breaks in the live segments on the Vessel live DVD/VHS. The track brings with it playful horns and accordion. Bjork’s lyrics describe the man she is to fall in love with, but has not met yet. The music video is an erratic cartoony creation from John Kricfalusi, best known for his work on Ren & Stimpy. “You’ve Been Flirting Again” is a gorgeous love song. Only Bjork’s soft vocals over lush strings create a storybook landscape to the song. She is here to tell this person that the woman that they are pining over is receptive to their charm, but just give her some time and space and she will come around. The earnest nature of the song harkens back to tracks like “Come to Me” and “One Day”.
The remaining tracks mostly delve to the realms of synth pop. “Hyperballad” blends in brushed drums and dance beat with a beautiful string section. When discussing the lyrics, Bjork said:
“Hyper-Ballad is about being in a relationship and three years on, you’re not high anymore, so you wake up early in the morning and you sneak outside and you do something horrible and destructive, break whatever you can find, watch a horrible film, read a bit of William Burroughs, something really gross and come home and be like ‘Hi honey, how are you?”
The music video, directed by Michel Gondry, sees Bjork laying on the ground (like she had fallen off that cliff) with an overlay of a digitized 8-bit version of her acting out the song over her face. Of all the song’s on the album, this one has forever been a favorite. “The Modern Things” has the most reminiscent feeling to her bubbly pop productions off Debut. Here, Bjork speaks on modern technology’s existence as constant, just waiting dormant for its time to awaken and be a part of the world around us. We are again welcomed with hallmark scat-like vocals. “Cover Me” is a stand out alternative track. The song has this enigmatic tone with foggy production, echoing harpsichord, and Bjorks almost whispered vocals. Here she dives into her deepest depths ready to prove herself. It’s one of the most interesting listens off the album.
This time period was a busy one for Bjork, with an international tour and the release of her remix album for Post, Telegram, in 1996. She has described the time as being musically promiscuous. She was more than willing to record tracks with various artists in various styles (see the hip-hop mix of “I Miss You” [Dobie Mix], Army of Me (feat. Skunk Anaise), the Brodsky Quartet version of Hyberballad (or its other remixes) as just some examples). The stress of this time period would begin to wear on her (a prime example being her public meltdown on a Bangkok reporter in 1996). The same year, a stalker of her’s would send a sulfuric acid bomb in the mail to her home before recording his suicide. She would go on to retreat from the public eye to record in Spain for her groundbreaking follow up record Homogenic. Compared to her first album Debut, this album still stands the test of time. This has to be the most versatile and accessible album in her entire discogrpahy. If you are new to Bjork’s work, I highly suggest starting here and working outwords.My favorite tracks off this record are:
- “Army of Me”
- “It’s Oh So Quiet”
- “Possibly Maybe”
I honestly can’t say there are any skips to be heard on this album and as such, I have to give it a score of 10 out of 10! You definitely won’t be complaining once more after hearing this gem.
We first caught up with Björk via email while she was in Australia as part of her Volta tour. Later, we did a couple…
Isobel by Björk - Songfacts
Isobel by Björk song meaning, lyric interpretation, video and chart position