In 1995, as the release of her third album ‘Post’ drew near, Bjork was still reeling from the maverick, surprise success of ‘Debut’ – a record that established her unique voice after the demise of her press-darling band The Sugarcubes. It was an energetic, dance-driven, experience-hungry album that grabbed greedily from jazz, pop, house, folk and anywhere else it liked. But Bjork’s musical appetite was far from sated, and she set out to work with a wider range of co-producers to make the stew all the richer and allow Bjork to drive things in several directions at once, make her next album “musically promiscuous”. Hence heavy, glossy, future-focused production and beats were pushed to the fore, adding influence from all over the world to the London clubland melting pot of ‘Debut’. 20 years to day of its release – June 13 1995 – here’s everything you need to know about the moving ‘Post’…
Story behind the sleeve
The title of ‘Post’ refers not only to the fact that all the songs on the album were written post Björk’s move to England, but also that the lyrics of the album were like a letter back home to Iceland. The red-and-white trim on her jacket, designed by recent St Martin’s graduate Hussein Chalayan, resembled a UK airmail envelope, picking up both sides of the pun. Designer Paul White at Me Company surrounded her with giant postcards to represent communication with friends and family in an image shot by Stéphane Sednaoui.
1 Björk did many of her vocals for ‘Post’ on the beach at Compass Point studios in Nassau, the Bahamas. With the aid of some very long leads, she recorded songs such as ‘Cover Me’ in the dark under the stars.
2 ‘It’s Oh So Quiet’, probably Björk’s biggest crossover hit, was originally recorded by American actress Betty Hutton in 1981. Betty was also the inspiration for Throwing Muses’ ‘Elizabeth June’.
3 The song ‘Army Of Me’, an exhortation to a self-indulgent friend to get their shit together, was used on the soundtrack to the film version of cult 90s comic Tank Girl, starring Lori Petty and Ice T. Björk’s vision of the song was “Imagine you’re in a club full of heavy metal types and grunge people. ‘Army Of Me’ is like someone’s granny blasting out over the PA and saying ‘Snap out of it! Stop whining! Wash your hair! Smarten yourself up!’”
4 ‘Headphones’, a track about the emotions of receiving a mixtape from a friend or lover, owes many of its strange sounds to guest producer Tricky, Björk’s boyfriend at the time.
5 The whole album received a cover tribute from music website Stereogum in 2008, with artists such as Liars, Dirty Projectors and Xiu Xiu covering its songs.
“Look at the speed out there/It magnetises me to it/And i have no fear/I’m only in to this to enjoy” – ‘Enjoy’: Headrush hedonism has always been represented, in Björkworld, by the city on songs such as ‘Violently Happy’ or ‘Crying’; that feeling of dizzying hunger for experience reaches its apex here.
“I go through all this/Before you wake up/So I can feel happier/To be safe again with you” – ‘Hyperballad’:
An odd, glitchy little beast about a woman who leaves her clifftop home early every morning to throwing small objects down to the rocks below and imagine her body smashing, ‘Hyperballad’ is a concise expression of the sometimes uncomfortable sacrifices involved in maintaining relationships.
“I know your habits but wouldn’t recognise you yet … I know by now that you’ll arrive by the time I stop waiting” – ‘I Miss You’: After spending this Latin-dancepop banger craving the ideal soulmate she believes she’ll one day find, in the final lines she has a trumpet-squealing epiphany: a watched pot never boils.
In their own words
“Post is very much influenced by being away from home, particularly in a country where everyone thinks you’re mad. The English, especially, can’t relate to me.”
What we said then
“Put bluntly, ‘Post’ is hard work. Put a bit more delicately, ‘Post’ is a fervently ambitious slice of (high) art that worships the past, welcomes the future and generally wombles around cheerily mocking 99 percent of contemporary music.” Simon Williams, 7/10
What we say now
A masterful matching of hard, up-to-the-minute beats with complex, personal lyrics about the rush and rage of being a modern urban woman, ‘Post’ found Björk going heavier, harder and deeper than ever before, pushing the edges of her airmail envelope.
David Longstreth, Dirty Projectors: “I think what I took from Björk when I was obsessed with her in high school was her way with deconstruction. She writes these classic melodies but breaks them apart so that it’s sort of up to you as the listener to put them back together. The song ends up meaning so much more because of the effort you have to give to it.”
Her brassy, bright cover of 50s Hollywood jazz vamper ‘It’s Oh So Quiet’ became her biggest crossover hit, taking her fame far beyond the already huge number of fans roped in by ‘Debut’ to the bemused tabloids with their pixie-puffin-eater stereotypes, and selling 400,000 copies in the UK. If, as she does, you see her first three albums as a trilogy, ‘Post’’s urgent pushing in all directions at once led her to the more unified, emotionally driven, high-sheen and heavy dance-pop of ‘Homogenic’, whose steely Alexander McQueen-clad sleeve portrait announced her as high-art priestess, no longer overawed by all the experience out there, but fully in control.