"Alarm Call" by Bjork, 1998

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

In 1993, a handful of CDs rotated in and out of my CD player. Their jewel case booklets decorated my dorm room's door. They were Hey Babe. They were Red Heaven. They were Blind. They were Star. They were Last Splash. They were Copacetic.

And they were Life's Too Good.

I loved this record. My sophomore year roommate has told me that, to this day, several of the CDs I put on repeat during my marathon afternoon naps/depressive states still bring him down, reminding him of the dark and musty room. Perhaps the Breeders, though I think he's a fan. Probably Belly. Definitely the Throwing Muses. But I cannot imagine that the nordic pop madness of the Sugarcubes could possibly bring him down. Bjork's infectious pixie voice and Einar Orn's mad rantings, along with a sound so exotic that compared to the distinctly American music I normally listened to, made this record and this band seem to soar above all the rest like heat lightning. Sure, it was already five years old by 1993. But it was new to me, and I spent hours on end with the CD on repeat, drifting in and out of NyQuil hazes and dreaming in Icelandic.

I'll probably say more about this album later, specifically "Delicious Demon," since it too is on the Top-100 List.

But in 1993, something else important happened, something I was really looking forward to: Bjork's Debut.

I hated it. HATED it. Where her voice used to bring girlish psychedelia to a frenetic new wave sound, here it was, on the first single "Human Behaviour," accompanied by an obnoxious techno--a dirty word among my ilk in 1993--tympani's BOOM BOOM and a video so bizarre that we'd often switch off 120 Minutes when it popped up, which it did quite often those first few weeks. I was done with Bjork--besides listening to Life's Too Good, which I still did.

So we fast forward. We fast forward to the new millennium, in fact, and we meet Vespertine through a friend at work. This was my second entree to Bjork and her genius. Yeah, I said it. Genius. Today I consider her one of the most original and groundbreaking artists in music. Vespertine became my new Life's Too Good in many ways. I let this album, full of electric clicks and unidentifiable sounds, somehow woven together to create some of the most beautiful and unusual music I'd ever heard, wash over me for weeks. During those weeks, I looked backwards--at Debut and Selmasongs, the soundtrack to a movie I'd loved, Post, full of amazing songs that nearly made the Top-100 as well, and finally Homogenic.

I loved them all, though probably not as much as Vespertine's magical beauty. Last year, though, as I worked through draft after draft of a new novel, a protagonist of which is a girl verily obsessed with Bjork's music, I found myself and the character returning to "Alarm Call." It was my character's ring tone; it became my ring tone. It's a song about humanity and joy, about finding happiness in music and by merely enjoying life, as if it's very simple. The song--and the character in the novel--would say it is very simple. A radio. Good batteries. A joyous tune: Free the whole human race from suffering.

Also it's got that "Beep beep. Beep beep. Beep. Beep beep. B-b-b-beep beep" thing. I car-dance to this one.