I saw some previews on SNL, as well as interviews on Youtube, and I have been following the Volta Tour Blog. I like the blog, because it has a homey feel to it, with bylines like, "If you believe in otherworldly stuff (and some of us do) it is easy to come to the conclusion that hotels are psychic cesspools. All kinds of individuals pass through them and they often do tragic things to themselves" (I have always felt the same way), and "How would Björk’s music smell? Should we use incense in our concerts, in addition to the lasers?" That's the kind of crap I think about with Katsucon Opening Ceremonies.
Anyway, on with my assessment of the various songs.
The album itself is kind of annoying. The front is really a sticker of Björk dressed in what I can only describe as a rainbow fig with big blue feet. The sticker is a heavy-duty Post-it kind, and so I peeled it aside, the album opened up like a set of doors. I flipped the top to expose the CD, and found the little lyrics booklet, in a VERY annoying font, inside a sleeve that gave the whole album this overworked artistic approach with practicality lost in some bureaucratic decision by the album designers. Once the sticker looses its sticking power, I fear the front flaps won't ever close properly because the liner notes make it bulge. I quickly burned the CD to the music server, and will probably not open the album ever again.
I was right about this song; it grew on me. I think the one thing I like about this song is this is a typical vocal style of Björk. Her haunting voice, which reminds me of Janis Joplin in howling blues style, seems to resonate in my frontal lobe, or perhaps my sinuses. I can understand why some people would consider her voice to be annoying, like a gourmet food, the impact is not so much the first time you taste it, but the taste and memory as it lingers over time. But when she screams, that gothy part of me can feel it down to my bones. her voice is raw and somehow tamed in the small frame of hers. It's a good opener musically, but the lyrics are left in a kind of immature state of Green Activism as subtle as a flying mallet.
There's an annoying attempt of experimental music where people play off key and out of synch, I assume on purpose, for some effect. I didn't like it in the 1960s, and I don't like it now. The Beatles used this in a few songs, notably the end of "Day in the Life," and they used it properly as a crescendo that ended with a downbeat piano note (which was later used in a documentary at the moment of John Lennon's assassination, which is how I will always remember it now). This song starts with that kind of stuff, then it abruptly ends, and then just threads near the end with a brass section. Apart from that, I understand the poetic journey painted with some of the lyrics and her voice, although there was little in the lyrics that hasn't been said in a lot of other lyrics about people leaving their hometown, uncertain about what they want, but know where they came from wasn't it. Oh, and I get the impression she's on a boat.
The Dull Flame Of Desire
A duet. The band sounds a little... immature. I hesitate when I say this, because it's going to offend one of my readers, but the brass section comes off sounding like a high school band. Technically fine, but it's missing a certain soul. I keep feeling like this COULD have been a great song, but was rushed in production. I have researched this, and the duet is apparently with Antony Hegarty, featuring Brian Chippendale and an Icelandic female brass section, which I believe is the group of people you see dressed in plastic parachute dresses on tour. For a duet, though? Not much is said.
You completely know this is one of the collabs with Timbaland because his unique style (he also worked on "Earth Intruders" and "Hope" on this CD). I like this song very much, even though I can't really understand a lot of what Björk is saying. Heh.
I See Who You Are
This has an Asian feel to it, and no wonder, Min Xiao-Fen's playing the pita (stringed "Chinese lute") on this. This gives the song a vibrant background, and I think actually sounds like one of Björk's vocal rhythms... which is odd, because Björk's singing in a different style, so it kind of clashes. Bt the lyrics are the first time I can feel some of her deep poetic style on this album. "Let's celebrate now all this flesh on our bones/Let me push you up against me tightly/And enjoy every bit of you." Beautiful.
Vertebrae By Vertebrae
I had to keep giggling, because the background brass sounded identical to "sneaking around" music played in the background of most episodes of the 1960s British adventure show, "The Avengers." I kept expecting someone to be hit on the head by an unseen bad guy from behind a wall. But apart from that, the lyrics have this kind of "angry girl making herself stronger through angst" lyrics that made "Bachelorette" and "Isobel" so popular, but I don't think as strong. You want to talk about strong? "I am a fountain of blackness in the shape of a girl." THAT is a strong lyric. But this song sounds more like yoga instructions.
I am confused, did she write this while sick or suicidal? I got lost. More brass section. This song is the most blah of the whole album. I didn't really care for the lyrics or style.
This tries hard to be political, but I think just doesn't cut it. It reads like an amateur trying out poetry for her history class. It's weak. But now we're deep in filler track territory.
Any song that starts out with foghorns is guaranteed to be... well, I have no idea. I don't care for how she sings this, because it seems like she's running through the motions. "Surely, no one will get this far into the album," she seems to be saying. But she's angry, and screaming to children, it seems, to rise up and be heard. Raise your own flag and all. Well... it sounds like a decent rave anthem, but it's no, "We're Not Gonna Take It." This song would have been SO much better as a punk song, or even a dance number. Someone needs to remix this badly.
The album ends on a mellow note, and thoroughly confused the hell out of me. I couldn't explain this song to save my life. It has a nice "end sound" but I shrug my shoulders and feel abandoned by a drunken parent who wandered upstairs with confusing advice after I went to bed.
After all is said and done, I have to give the album a C+. There are three decent songs out of this, which is worth the $9.99, but only just. There's a lot of "meh" in this mix, and there's just some kind of inertia lost in it.