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Worldier, Sexier and that Little bit Crazier ...,
This review is from: Post (Audio CD)
When "Debut" took the world by storm, no one was stumped more than its progenitor. Björk was suddenly Iceland’s biggest export since, well, anything, and the demand for the titular chanteuse solicited awards, appearances and tour dates from all over the globe. The record that was supposed to barely sell 100,000 copies had sold nearly four million worldwide and a follow-up was hotly anticipated by the music press. And, in many respects, "Post" follows the sophomore rulebook accordingly, among them the fact that Björk now had more friends involved in her musical arsenal, had more money thrown into the production and would produce an album that incorporated many different styles, genres and tunes. The one rule she failed to follow quite fabulously was that her second album would be nowhere near as good as the first … it seems the whole “build ‘em up – tear ‘em down” sentiments of the British music press were to be silenced with an album just as fascinating a listen, if not more so, as her first.
The first noticeable difference with "Post" is easily described by its fluorescent packaging. Björk has transformed from the shy alien on the Debut sleeve into a prodigious force to be reckoned with, a facet easily reflected by the music within the CD sleeve (can anyone imagine “Army Of Me” being on "Debut" at all!?) Though her amusedly observant persona is still present, she seems willing to take more chances now, as exemplified by the choice of collaborators. Nellee Hooper is on-hand to overlook proceedings, but old hands (Marius De Vries and Guy Sigsworth among them) and new faces (Tricky, Howie B and Graham Massey, the latter having actually introduced Björk to the joys of dance years earlier) had more of a hold on the musicmaking, serving up some truly inspiring stuff. One has the impression after listening to "Post" that this is more akin to the kind of music Björk herself would listen to. Incorporated into the mix are crushing bass lines, gorgeous string sections and offbeat instrumentation, amongst other things, all enmeshed into a wonderful concoction with the aid of Björk’s luminous voice.
A change of emotional meter should be spoken of also, as fans of "Debut’s" effusive dance-pop will be challenged by the darker hues present on this album. Whilst “Army Of Me” and “Possibly Maybe” rather obviously stand out as harsher material for the singer, even the album’s bright spots are tainted with a melancholy understanding. “Hyperballad” sees Björk doing terrible things to keep a beautiful love alive amidst a slow burn beat and crushingly romantic strings and “I Miss You’s” playful lyric is transformed into a state of questionable hysteria by Björk’s vocal and Howie B’s complimentary production. And the collaborations with Tricky, the confrontational “Enjoy” and minimalist “Headphones”, are as offbeat and menacing as anything the singer himself has come up with (though “Headphones”, upon later listens, heralds the album’s most uplifting moments). Meanwhile, the album’s lyrics, whilst still addressing the follies of human condition in a knowingly quixotic fashion, display a confidence unheard of in "Debut" (compare “Human Behaviour” to its more fearless cousin “Cover Me”) and the words found in “Possibly Maybe” and “Isobel” in particular suggest that this woman is definitely learning a lot about her adopted home, as well as its inhabitants, fast.
That said, Björk can handle the diva dramatics as well as she can the joy pop, evidenced already by “Play Dead”, and she wrestles each of these disparate songs into her own pantheon with a wrenching uniqueness. When most artists try their hands with different genres on the same album, it sounds like a so-called “artist” cashing in on the latest trend, yet Björk sidesteps this pitfall quite easily thanks to her voice and her own investment in the music. It is here that her production skills start to evolve and the music begins to flow accordingly, with some of the results nothing short of staggering. Tainted by a bleaker world view it may be, but "Post" signals what true potential lies within Björk’s own compositional skills. From the Latino brass and spectacle of “I Miss You” to the John Barry-style epic “Isobel”, from the moving histrionics of “Possibly Maybe” to the just-plain wonderful “Hyperballad”, you have everything here that Björk can give as a singer and, testament to her delivery and musical smarts, she even gets away with the big band boisterousness of “It’s Oh So Quiet”. Other singers would have been swallowed whole by this raucous animal of a song but, as proven by the single’s success over the globe, in this woman’s hands, it was the other way around.