Björk (s/t 1977)
Joslyn Layne, critic at Allmusic, does not like this record: "Novelty value can only carry an album so far,” she claimed “even covers of Stevie Wonder's "Your Kiss Is Sweet", sung in Icelandic, and the Beatles' "The Fool on the Hill" will probably not be enough to keep you laughing, or interested for the duration." This feels downright churlish to me, as a novelty it’s interesting. As a 70s pop records, it’s….well not bad.
Not that this record is exactly groundbreaking or even particularly sparkling. I can’t imagine ever being in a Bjork mood and reaching for her 1977 eponymous debut. It’s not exactly an 11-year old Michael Jackson flooring 1960’s America with I Want You Back. But at the same time, it’s not the sound of a pixie screaming into a reel-to-reel. In fact, we’re unlikely to hear Bjork’s voice so restrained and “normal” again for the rest of her career. Production values are high and there are some genuinely lovely moments on this record.
Sometime in 1976 Bjork appeared singing on Icelandic radio as part of a music school performance which attracted a record deal for the 11 year-old and in December 1977 this was released. Musically, it has the feel of pre-disco god Moroder - a kind of slightly quirky Europop played by genuinely energetic sessions musicians and a producer sounding like he’s having a great time.
Compositions are simple for the most part. The one writing credit for Bjork herself, Jóhannes Kjarval, is a rather prescient synth/recorder instrumental. The romantic in me wants to think this is an early sign of Bjork’s gift for the atmospheric, but more likely it’s her coming up with a melody and the producer trying to find something to do with it. Alta Mira is interesting in the slight shouts a yelps that would later become signature. I genuinely like Fúsi Hreindýr, but in more of an uplifting 70s stage-school song type way. The opening Arabadrengurinn has some lovely sitar and showcases Bjork as quite technically gifted at a young age. Her performance on this disco number suggests why she attracted such attention.
This is not a bad record and though it probably means more historically than anything else, it definitely earns its place in the completist’s collection. It certainly shows more style and charm then say Charlotte Church’s debut - as records made by kids it’s a good ‘un. But it’s unlikely to become a staple of your iPod.
Bjork was apparently enthused, but unimpressed and turned down a second record, using the profits from her s/t to buy a piano. Almost certainly a good decision. She had a chance to grow, experience punk, rebellion and then return to pop music a full person, not a child having grown up in the spotlight. We can be thankful for that. But a for a cute little snapshot of an 11-year-old who would go on to produce such extraordinary music, it’s surprisingly listenable.