Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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  • Debut [Elektra, 1993] Neither
  • Post [Elektra, 1995] C+
  • Homogenic [Elektra, 1997] **
  • Vespertine [Elektra, 2001] A-
  • Greatest Hits [Elektra, 2002] A-
  • Medulla [Elektra, 2004] Choice Cuts
  • Volta [Atlantic, 2007] ***
  • Voltaic [Nonesuch, 2009] ***
  • Vulnicura [One Little Indian, 2015] *

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Debut [Elektra, 1993] Neither

Post [Elektra, 1995]
This well-regarded little item rekindles my primeval suspicion of Europeans who presume to "improve" on rock and roll (or for that matter Betty Hutton, originator of the best song here). I don't miss the Sugarcubes' guitars per se so much as their commitment to the groove, which--sporadic though it would remain, Iceland not being one of your blues hotbeds--might shore up the limited but real intrinsic interest of her eccentric instrumentation, electronic timbres, etc. Then there's her, how shall I say it, self-involved vocal devices. Which brings us to, right, her lyrics, which might hit home harder if she'd grown up speaking the English she'll die singing, but probably wouldn't. Anybody out there remember Dagmar Krause? German, Henry Cow, into artsong and proud of it? Well, take my word for it. She was no great shakes either. But at least she had politics. C+

Homogenic [Elektra, 1997]
she organizes freedom--how Scandinavian of her ("Joga," "Bachelorette") **

Vespertine [Elektra, 2001]
I liked this a lot better once I heard how it was entirely about sex, which since it often buries its pulse took a while. Sex, not fucking. I'm nervous so you'd better pet me awhile sex. Lick the backs of my knees sex. OK, where my buttcheeks join my thighs sex. I'm still a little jumpy so you'd better pet me some more sex. How many different ways can we open our mouths together sex. We came 20 minutes ago and have Sunday morning ahead of us sex. Or, if fucking, tantric--the one where you don't move and let vaginal peristalsis do the work (yeah sure). The atmospherics, glitch techno, harps, glockenspiels, and shades of Hilmar Om Hilmarsson float free sometimes, and when she gets all soprano on your ass you could accuse her of spirituality. But with somebody this freaky you could get used to that. English lyrics provided, most of them dirty if you want. A-

Greatest Hits [Elektra, 2002]
Vintage cabaret stylings in her native Icelandic? Multiple live interpretations of compositions that were barely existent to begin with? Concerts digitized in DVD Vaseline like Matthew Barney's gonads? Old Sugarcubes best-of? I'm not saying they're bad, and I'd be a fool to take the time finding out, because I'm positive they're not for me. But some tribute seems fitting in this Year of the Björk, and this does the trick, with four winners from the pretty good Homogenic, two highlights from the superb Vespertine, and a couple I should have noticed when I was panning Post--especially "Army of Me," trip-hopped for low-end organ massage by Nellee Hooper--as well as a couple I'm glad I didn't. Just the thing to make the discerning dilettante reinvestigate Homogenic. Though not enough to make him go find the one where she remixed every single song on Post. A-

Medulla [Elektra, 2004]
"Triumph of a Heart" Choice Cuts

Volta [Atlantic, 2007]
Divinely chosen leader of an all-girl horn orchestra ("Declare Independence," "Earth Intruders"). ***

Voltaic [Nonesuch, 2009]
Available in five distinct physical configurations (collect them all!), the review version being CD 1/DVD 1, which showcase her electro-march mode emphasizing its most recent manifestation and indicate without conveying the ritual reach of her 2007 tour, respectively ("Army of Me," "Pluto"). ***

Vulnicura [One Little Indian, 2015]
I always thought she was too lifelike for him anyway ("Stonemilker," "Atom Dance") *