Page 1 of 1

The Bjork Business

PostPosted: Mon Jan 03, 2005 1:28 pm
by howard male
Having had my last posting in 'General' roundly ignored, I've decided to crawl back to my 'Howard's World Views' cage. I do understand though. I must have seemed like the person at the New Years Eve party who suddenly announces "Let's play Charades!" When everyone in the room is engrossed in meaningful and/or amusing conversations or thinking about far more important things. Anyway, let's move on.

Did I spray a mouthful of Corn Flakes across the kitchen table when I heard the news that a major international pop star had got a Radio 3 World Music nomination for Boundary Crossing.? Well, no. Having laid out my carefully considered but fairly rigid principles of what I feel is and isn't, or should and shouldn't be, World Music, elsewhere on CG's site I confess I find myself having to back down somewhat in this instance.

On principle, and because of the way I see the World Music label working, I don't think Bjork should be there - she's got plenty of other spotlights pointing at her and she primarily performs in the English language, so that's two crosses against her name.

And this has nothing to do with what I think of her music. I loved the first couple of albums and I haven't heard anything since which I felt was substandard. But lately I've felt the need to move on. In the words of the relationship break-up cop-out. "It's not you Bjork, it's me." I just got bored. Bjork's voice was beginning to sound mannered to me, even if it was as heartfelt and haunting as it ever was, I'd had enough.
So my opinion that she should be included is fairly objective in that I'm not going to hold my fickle musical ear against the eccentric Icelander.

Bjork is still making exciting innovative music. I have only heard one track from 'Medulla', her latest album, which was 'Oceania'- as performed at the Olympics and played by Jerry Lyseight on Saturday night. Like the rest of the album, it was entirely created from vocals and treated vocals. From that track alone it's clear she's still more cutting edge than any other mainstream artist.

So, bottom line.
The important factor is that World shakes off it's reputation for snootiness and middle class tastefulness and that it entices more listeners to dip into it's many scents and flavours. Bjork is still experimenting, which means she has more in common with the best World has to offer, than she does with Rock, Dance or whatever other box she's been put in, in the past. She's also, for want of a better adjective, cool. And let's face it - World Music - as far as the general public goes, isn't.
Even today the broadsheets will still rake up the old 'pan pipes' description. The only difference is it will often be to say an artist or album isn't 'the usual pan pipes. Etc etc...' The effect is the same though. It still reinforces a stereotype which should have been buried a decade ago and shows astonishing ignorance on the part of the critic.

By inviting Bjork to the table the message being sent out is that with her fearless sonic adventurousness and haunting otherworldliness, she will feel right at home in the company of Lhasa, Lila Downs, Tinawiwen, Gotan Project, Clotaire K, and so on. And so, by proxy, will her fans.
By including her, Radio Three are effectively using her as a big sign post which reads - GREAT MUSIC THIS WAY. NO PAN PIPES GUARANTEED.

PostPosted: Mon Jan 03, 2005 2:23 pm
by Con Murphy
A reply just so you know you're not being ignored Howard. I agree with your post, I think Björk is fantastic and I was delighted to see her get a nomination. And I don't think there's tokenism involved, because there's some truly beautiful and intriguing Boundary Crossing on her latest CD with Inuit singer Tanya Tagaq and others. I think it'd be great for her to win it.

Bjerk!

PostPosted: Tue Jun 21, 2005 10:06 pm
by garth cartwright
got to admit i never noticed this one before so will post my usual measured response which is to say that I find the pint sized Icelandic waif absolutely unlistenable and horribly pretentious. If there is worse music made than Bjork's I'm fortunately yet to hear it. But then even when I was a tiny teenie rock fan art wank was never my thing.

PostPosted: Wed Jun 22, 2005 8:44 am
by howard male
Well you're a one Garth! I take it your brain-dead approach to music criticism is either a reflection of the fact there is no editorial control in the Feeedback Zone - no need here to tow the world-music evangelists party-line of always accentuating the positive - or you've just got back from a booze-up with some Balkan friends and needed to pick a fight, even if it was only a virtual one. Perhaps you thought 'if this posting doesn't work, then the other one will where I mention Aerosmith and AC/DC will - they'll run me outa town!

But back to the subject which you've so sensitively and objectively dissected. I've noticed before that men (yes, particularly men) get quite irrationally cross about Bjork and I'm not quite sure why. As I've already stated - I'm not her biggest fan, but I was a big fan for the first couple of solo albums, and so have no problem saying a couple of things in her defence.

I have absolutely no doubt that she is a genuine artist, and that she is not pretentious. The word pretentious means - to claim to be important or to pretend to be other, or more than what one is. Bjork does not pretending to write unique, idiosyncratic which it's hard to trace the direct antecedence of. She doesn't pretend to collaborate with some of the wittiest and most imaginative video directors of her generation, and she doesn't pretend to offer some of the most interesting perspectives on creativity in her always intriguing interviews. Yeah, she's a little dotty, but so are most of our most innovative artists.

The bottom line is - she's just not your cup of rakija, Garth. All your other comments are no more than an unpleasant blast of formless vitriol, and I look forward to the next blast! You've clearly stolen my spiky crown as the King of the Gripers on this forum.

PostPosted: Wed Jun 22, 2005 11:43 am
by Dominic
The only artist I can think of who divides opinion as much as Bjork is Yoko Ono. They're both either seen as boundary-pushers or charlatans, both are unafraid to speak their mind, both are portrayed as mad witches.

Yoko's recent show at QEH was very interesting. Her band included Marc Ribot and the drummer from Acoustic Ladyland, both fantastic, enabling Yoko to provide low-key vocals alternating between poetry and her trademark "non-singing". As the Guardian review has it - a contrary and reliably perplexing evening.

Howard, has Marcia heard the Tanya Tagaq Gillies?

Re: Bjerk!

PostPosted: Wed Jun 22, 2005 1:27 pm
by Con Murphy
garth cartwright wrote:got to admit i never noticed this one before so will post my usual measured response which is to say that I find the pint sized Icelandic waif absolutely unlistenable and horribly pretentious. If there is worse music made than Bjork's I'm fortunately yet to hear it. But then even when I was a tiny teenie rock fan art wank was never my thing.


If you'll pardon the icky imagery, rock fan art wank is in the ear of the beholder. For example, politeness towards an imminent guest has prevented me from expressing my opinion about a certain rock hero's more exalted albums, but I have no problem with Björk whatsoever. Is it her, or is it the people who like her that irritate you so, Garth? Is it the fact that for most people who do like her, she's their little bit of foreign wackiness, down to the insistence on writing her name with an umlaut and pronouncing it Byurk?
Because she really has made some excellent music, and could even be described as funky at times, such as on Triumph of a Heart from her last CD Medulla.

cloying

PostPosted: Tue Jun 28, 2005 6:44 pm
by garth cartwright
It's not those who listen to Bjork who annoy me - a very good friend rates her highly and forces me to listen to her (she also likes Franz Ferdinand...) - it's just that Bjork always sounds so cloying, so self conscious of her artistic genius, everything she does from going on about pixies and elves to hiring dance music and avant music types in an effort to make her records more of an art statement, the allowing for the remix of one of her tunes by all kinds of bedroom DJs then issuing it on a CD and suggesting she'll pass the royalties on to tsunami survivors (when being filthy rich she could simply follow Sandra Bullock and write a cheque for $1million), I really do loathe her. If her records were ever fun - I was still a youthful rocker when The Sugarcubes were first about and I always found them incredibly clunky - I'd just say "pretentious individual makes some OK records" (as I do for the likes of Tom Waits and Lou Reed) but I've heard a lot of Bjork and not one note has ever made me want to tap my foot, hum it, engage with it or do anything except throw it across the room. Her voice is something to show off with - comparable to say Steve Vai's flashy guitar licks - but she never conveys anything of interest with it. Thus her music is calculated Art Rock, soulless, dull, unengaging, unbelievably narcissistic and pretentious. I'm surprised Howard liked it cos I always thought Bjork's audience were largely female students adn people who also happened to take Nick Cave seriously. AC/DC and Aerosmith offer nothing but dumb rock'n'roll and in the past have done that incredibly well - and as any musician knows, there's an art to providing such simple pleasures. An art that Bjork never need worry about engaging with. PS never heard Yoko Ono - not enough of a Beatles fan to wanna listen. But Laurie Anderson is also unbearable. Actually that's my idea of a concert from hell - Bjork and Laurie and Franz Ferdinand. I imagine Howard's is Aerosmith and AC/DC. funny old world . . .

Re: cloying

PostPosted: Tue Jun 28, 2005 8:39 pm
by Con Murphy
garth cartwright wrote:I've heard a lot of Bjork and not one note has ever made me want to tap my foot, hum it, engage with it or do anything except throw it across the room.


C'mon! Have you never even kicked off your shoes and high-stepped to It's Oh So Quiet? I think everyone should do that at least once in their lives.

PostPosted: Wed Jun 29, 2005 7:59 am
by howard male
Can you keep your disturbing fantasy's to yourself in future, Con.

Garth wrote:

I'm surprised Howard liked it cos I always thought Bjork's audience were largely female students adn people who also happened to take Nick Cave seriously


Well I'm surprised you're surprised Garth! I actually have, off the top of my head, three male friends and one brother in law, who are fans of the tricksy Islandic princess, so I don't know where you get this idea that she only has female fans.

And I find your criticism of her hiring arty types to do her videos and choreography baffling. Would you prefer it if Spielberg directed her videos than some struggling ex art student looking for a first break? And how could you not love the bouncy tribal pop of 'Animal Behaviour' with it's delightfully creepy homemade-looking video featuring hedgehogs and moths rather than girls with big butts? I can sense your blood pressure increasing as you read this and it gives me great joy.

And I take Nick Cave seriously too. At least I have since his masterpiece 'Never Shall We Part'.

But at least we agree on Franz Ferdinand!

arty

PostPosted: Wed Jun 29, 2005 5:44 pm
by garth cartwright
I don't think she hires struggling art students; more the types of video maker she reads about in Dazed & Confused. Which is actually the perfect mag for Bjork and her audience. I do know of one male B fan but he is gay so she fits into his "diva" obsession. One thing I'll say for Bjork is that she divides listeners - which is to her credit: nothing worse than the middlebrow indie/pop/fake soul etc crowd who aim to make a music that appeals to the masses without galvinising an extreme reaction from anyone. So maybe I shouldn't be so nasty to her. As for Nick Cave - I saw the Birthday Party and they were awesome, nasty heroin addicted noise, but find Cave's solo output largely ponderous and pompous. Was sent by the Guardian to review him twice and the command he had of the stage with The BP had also left him. Not for me.

PostPosted: Fri Jul 01, 2005 4:11 pm
by howard male
Garth wrote -

I don't think she hires struggling art students; more the types of video maker she reads about in Dazed & Confused


And you image they're not struggling artists too Garth? Just because you get a spread in a trendy specialist mag like Dazed and Confused (which probably has a, too trendy for its own good, tiny readership), it doesn't mean you're raking in the big bucks.

The point is, directors like Michel Gondry and Sophie Muller aren't mainstream promo directors. The kind of arts cross-fertilisation that Bjork encourages has to be a positive thing, regardless of what her motives might be. And I happen to think her motives are genuine, even if I don't actively listen to her music anymore

I ripped Nick Cave's shirt

PostPosted: Sat Jul 02, 2005 2:30 pm
by Dominic
I saw the Birthday Party and they were awesome ... but find Cave's solo output largely ponderous and pompous

I saw the Birthday Party at the Africa Centre (!) and again at Hammersmith Palais in a double bill with the Fall. At the latter, as Nick Cave toppled from the stage into the moshpit, I grabbed his shirt. He pulled away and the shirt (red checked workshirt with the sleeves hacked off) ripped. Cave glared at me and I let go. The following week John Peel played a record for someone who had sent him a piece of that very shirt, announcing "the strange thing is, he's not the only one who's sent me a piece..."

I enjoyed the early Bad Seeds records - the first 2 EPs continue the Birthday Party's descent into the swamp, and the Mercy Seat is an awesome spiral of a song - but gave up on him when he failed to do the material justice on stage. I returned to the throng when - under the influence of a young Greek Goth Godess - I listened to The Boatman's Call, with the unforgettable opening line "I don't believe in an interventionist god...". Yes - it's ponderous and pompous, but it also manages to incredibly funny and quite touching at the time.

Last year's Brixton Academy shows made into Time Out's top London gig list, but I preferred the Hammersmith Apollo concert a year or two earlier - I could actually see what was going on without being trampled by beer monsters.