By the late '90s, Björk's playful, unique world view and singular voice became as confining as they were defining. With its surprising starkness and darkness, 1997's Homogenic shatters her "Icelandic pixie" image. Possibly inspired by her failed relationship with drum'n'bass kingpin Goldie, Björk sheds her more precious aspects, displaying more emotional depth than even her best previous work indicated. Her collaborators -- LFO's Mark Bell, Mark "Spike" Stent, and Post contributor Howie B -- help make this album not only her emotionally bravest work, but her most sonically adventurous as well. A seamless fusion of chilly strings (courtesy of the Icelandic String Octet), stuttering, abstract beats, and unique touches like accordion and glass harmonica, Homogenic alternates between dark, uncompromising songs such as the icy opener, "Hunter," and more soothing fare like the gently percolating "All Neon Like." The noisy, four-on-the-floor catharsis of "Pluto" and the raw vocals and abstract beats of "5 Years" and "Immature" reveal surprising amounts of anger, pain, and strength in the face of heartache. "I dare you to take me on," Björk challenges her lover in "5 Years," and wonders on "Immature," "How could I be so immature/To think he would replace/The missing elements in me?" "Bachelorette," a sweeping, brooding cousin to Post's "Isobel," is possibly Homogenic's saddest, most beautiful moment, giving filmic grandeur to a stormy relationship. Björk lets a little hope shine through on "Jòga," a moving song dedicated to her homeland and her best friend, and the reassuring finale, "All Is Full of Love." "Alarm Call"'s uplifting dance-pop seems out of place with the rest of the album, but as its title implies, Homogenic is her most holistic work. While it might not represent every side of Björk's music, Homogenic displays some of her most impressive heights.
© Heather Phares /TiVo