Friday, February 27, 2015

Björk Marathon: The Sykurmolarnir Compilations

So that's a wrap on The Sugarcubes throwback, but there's more: the compilations!


In 1998 (about six years after the band broke up), a greatest hits album was released, aptly titled The Great Crossover Potential. It just sounds so modest and humble of them (or their record companies) to call it that. This compilation features the hit songs from all 3 of the Sugarcubes albums and has not a single remix, no b-sides, and no new material. Tracks 1-5 feature songs from Life's Too Good, tracks 6-9 are from Here Today, Tomorrow Next Week! and 10-14 are from Stick Around for Joy.


If you want to skip the albums and only want the hits, or if you're new to The Sugarcubes, The Great Crossover Potential is the best place to start. It's a no-thrills compilation. There's nothing special about it other than the songs that are known and loved. And that's certainly not a bad thing!

The two other compilations in my collection (that were both released in 2006) are DVD's!
 

This music video compilation----like the greatest hits compilation---is a no-thrills affair. None of the music videos are remastered or restored; they still look as blurry, shaky, crafty, and simple as the day they were released from the 1980s to early 1990s. Though pretty poor and cheap---even slightly crude---in comparison to the very sophisticated, glossy, and top-notch quality of Björk's future music videos, part of the charm of these music videos are their simplicity and off-kilterness.

I've posted all the music videos throughout the Sugarcubes segment of the marathon, but here's my top 5 most favorites of them that are on this DVD:

Birthday (both Icelandic and the English version):





I just love it when Björk sings in her native tongue, and with "Birthday," it feels all the more organic. And something about Björk dancing while singing it brings it even closer to Earth on heaven. The English version is a timeless classic: it's wild, odd, and bursting with life and color. I also love it for how it feels like we're given a tour of Reykjavik through the zany point of view of The Sugarcubes.

Cold Sweat



This one is so dark and sensual. Like basically all of the music videos of The Sugarcubes, there's a story and yet no story to tell in the promotional. Something's going on---something scary, weird, and naughty. Whatever and why-ever Einar gropes a doll-like looking Björk lying on gold coins, or why at the end he gets pinned to a chained fence all beaten and bruised, who cares? This video's just ice-chillingly awesome.

Motorcrash 


Like the song itself, this video is just kooky and messy, in a good way! It's also another zany tour through Reykjavik, what's not to enjoy about that? I just love it.


Hit


This is the most polished and well-made music video that the Sugarcubes ever had. I adore the clown and doll theme. The video feels like a child's daydream, or maybe some child's nightmare? Clearly, as the lyrics say, this music video is about love, being "in rapture", and having all that joy inside you. The music video means all that in such a cutesy, adorable way.


Vitamin 


 This is their second most polished music video, and their most fast-paced one too. Like they did with "Hit", unlike what they did with their music videos before this one, there's costumes, makeup, and a story, or at least there's a story that could. Okay, so maybe there really is no story here, but it sure is fun to watch!

Divided into 9 music videos and 3 bonus ones, what The Sugarcubes DVD may lack in quality is totally forgotten when you simply watch the videos as they are, and enjoy all the fun that The Sugarcubes put into their short but unforgettable career as a band. And oh! Another highlight to this compilation, one that I haven't posted on here until now, is the addition of "Luftgitar" ("Airguitar"), a Sugarcubes b-side track, which stars Sjón as the dorky and sprightly Johnny Triumph!


 The last Sugarcubes DVD in my collection is the band's first and only live concert DVD, Live Zabor.


This 15-track DVD was shot live from various 1988-1989 concerts, basically pulling mostly from Life's Too Good with only a few tracks from Here Today, Tomorrow Next Week! And even though the quality of this DVD is worse than from the music video compilation with its shakiness, blurriness, and overall cheap and dated feel to it (I mean boy, it is painfully so 80's, and this DVD is begging to be restored!), it really is nice to see many tracks from their debut album performed live. The greatest thrill of this collection are the interviews between the songs! Each band member is interviewed separately, and each interview perfectly shows how alike they all were with their dark humor, awkwardness, and silliness, but also how unique they were as individuals. And honestly, I liked the interviews more than the live performances themselves. Not that The Sugarcubes weren't great live, but I don't think the filming did them and their shows justice. But the interviews? Here they are:


Oh Einar, isn't he adorable or what? Noticed how the interview segues into the song(s)? Another reason why I love these interviews. Instead of being a distraction, they actually serve a purpose, not just there as add-ons. They are pretty amusing---and even educational---to watch.

Like Magga's interview, where we get educated on traditional Icelandic food:


And Siggi takes us to church (literally), and within this same clip is Bragi's "Cat" interview:


Björk dissects a TV and contemplates stuff:


And Thor talks about cars as "poetry in motion":


I've listened to and watched The Sugarcubes CD's and DVD's more times than I can count, and still, this band just makes me smile. They were truly one of a kind, disbanded but their legacy and the affect it has had on Icelandic music and pop culture has never left the grips of Iceland, and the world.

For what it's worth - they're all friends to this day, and still manage Smekkleysa/Bad Taste together! 

On November 17, 2006, Sykurmolarnir had a one-off reunion concert to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their debut single, "Birthday", with all proceeds going to their record label, Smekkleysa (Bad Taste Ltd), and to promote Icelandic music. At that time, Smekkleysa was very close to bankruptcy, so admittedly, they did the reunion/concert at Reykjavik's Laugardalshöll sporting arena to save their label. If it weren't for this reunion, who knows if Smekkleysa would still be standing. It certainly helped and basically saved what must be now a national treasure. Despite the reunion's success, The Sugarcubes have adamantly said that they will never get back together or record new material. It's too bad that there has yet been a CD or DVD release of that concert, but some clips can be found on YouTube. Here's one of "Birthday":


And seriously, don't these people age? This picture's answer is: nope!


After their break up, all members of The Sugarcubes have since embarked on successful solo careers, Einar and Björk especially. The latter would not only have one successful solo career, but would end up being an even bigger star than she already was with the launch of one very special debut album.

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