Björk - Debut

Thumped Album Club Week 47: Björk – Debut (1993)

The 47th selection for Thumped Album Club is Björk‘s Debut

Debut is the second studio album by Icelandic singer-songwriter Björk. The album was released in July 1993 on One Little Indian Records in the United Kingdom and Elektra Records in the United States. Björk worked on the album with producer Nellee Hooper who co-wrote five of Debut’s songs with her. The album mostly consists of love songs relating to subjects such as her boyfriend Dominic Thrupp, her producer Nellee Hooper and to love of life itself. Musically, the songs on this album took a different direction from her previous albums with her former band The Sugarcubes, with the backing music ranging from house, jazz and trip hop styles.

Most of the songs from Debut were written years prior to the production of the album. As well as working with Graham Massey, Björk wanted to work with jazz musicians and contacted Oliver Lake and Corky Hale to record jazz arrangements to some of the songs. After meeting producer Nellee Hooper, the two completed production on the album in 1993. On Debut’s initial release, the album sold far greater than her label predicted, charting at number three in the United Kingdom and sixty-one in the United States. The album was certified gold in Canada and platinum in the United States. Debut received widespread critical acclaim from British critics who praised Björk’s vocals and the choice of a wide range of musical styles on the album. In the United States, the album received more mixed reviews, with some critics complaining about the lack of rock music on Debut.

Five singles were released from Debut: “Human Behaviour”, “Venus as a Boy”, “Play Dead”, “Big Time Sensuality” and “Violently Happy”. “Play Dead” was recorded after the album’s release and was later issued as a bonus track in a few regions. All five singles charted in the United Kingdom with only “Human Behaviour”, “Violently Happy” and “Big Time Sensuality” charting on dance and modern rock charts in the United States. Despite the continued praise from critics, Björk did not find Debut to be one of her best albums stating that she will and has made better music on later works.

Björk - Debut

As usual, give it three listens before commenting, and comments can be posted either further down the page or over on the forum.

All previous Album Club selections can be found at https://thumped.com/tac.

  1. Right, got to get back on track with album club. Been far too busy lately with work and moving stresses.

    Really looking forward to this. Left it way too late to get into Bjork albums. Only have her greatest hits.

    I fear this is going to make me sad about feeling old though. Human Behavior always does.

  2. I have this somewhere. I remember the singles but not much else. Post would be the one i listened to most. Is there a lot of dump tis, dump tis, dump tis dance shite on this?

  3. Well, for me on first listen the beats are not one of the album's great strengths. They might have been alright in the 90s, maybe they were even sophisticated then – i dunno, but now they sound a bit gammy. Maybe better to say they were of their time. Sometimes I hear something that reminds me just how close in time the 90s were to the 80s.

  4. I think this is great. Only managed the 1 listen so far and will definitely get back to it over the next few days. Gonna be away from thumped for the next week or so though, so I'll pen my thoughts when I get back. But I can't see it getting less than a 4/5 from me.

  5. Gave this a cursory listen on way to work this morning, just got to the first 3 tracks, as far as Venus as a Boy – Lovely melody and quite risque lyrics. It's strange listening to it again, first time since it first came out. Anyway, will listen more and come back to it.

  6. Can't really be a tourist here because I'm a Bjork fangirl. In fact i'm more going to use this post to question why any of you morans are not bjork fangirls.

    Anywhooo – for horrific context, this album pre-dates the spice girls. My sister bullied me into listening to it (girl power!!, thanks sis) and then I got hooked on it. Agree that some of the beats and textures date this one. however the songwriting is sublime – also the thing about bjork stuff, she's really good at making the music just be music and not be some kinda statement even though its all really explorational. I'm just gonna 5/5 this, even now it sounds like something music is missing in the charts and it set her on course to do loads of great stuff.

    Here she is doing some MMA vocals dressed like the frontman of an Emo band.

    [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkuY97CUCCs%5D

  7. Can't really be a tourist here because I'm a Bjork fangirl. In fact i'm more going to use this post to question why any of you morans are not bjork fangirls.

    Anywhooo – for horrific context, this album pre-dates the spice girls. My sister bullied me into listening to it (girl power!!, thanks sis) and then I got hooked on it. Agree that some of the beats and textures date this one. however the songwriting is sublime – also the thing about bjork stuff, she's really good at making the music just be music and not be some kinda statement even though its all really explorational. I'm just gonna 5/5 this, even now it sounds like something music is missing in the charts and it set her on course to do loads of great stuff.

    Here she is doing some MMA vocals dressed like the frontman of an Emo band.

  8. It's a beautiful album. I wouldn't be hugely familiar with Björk's stuff, but Play Dead is probably my favourite out of what I do know. That bass line – good man, Jah Wobble. What a way to finish an album. And it wasn't even on the original release, but was tacked on as a bonus track when Debut was reissued 6 months later. Mad.

  9. pete said:

    It's a beautiful album. I wouldn't be hugely familiar with Björk's stuff, but Play Dead is probably my favourite out of what I do know. That bass line – good man, Jah Wobble. What a way to finish an album. And it wasn't even on the original release, but was tacked on as a bonus track when Debut was reissued 6 months later. Mad.Click to expand…

    Ah thanks, yes I wondered about that because I didn't remember Play Dead on original. Was it a film tie in or something?
    I've given this a few listens now but I fondly remember it from the time and it's tied to a particular relationship too which makes it nice to revisit.
    Some great tracks on it, very much of the time perhaps but still a really good album. It's very much a debut as Bjork seems to be trying on lots of different hats and taking on different genres but her vocals on every track are pretty unbeatable. It's interesting too that some tracks I might not have been as fond of at the time, such as Anchor Song or Someone in Love, are ones I love now on relisten. Superb stuff overall.

  10. I haven't even listened to it, but just reading the comments is sending shivers up my spine. I think the beats have dated really well – I've never heard another beat like Human Behaviour

    Hyperballad off the 2nd album is my favourite Bjork song though

  11. I remember being in London in Tower I think when this was just released – it was a BIG little album, if you get me. Here's my first (2nd) impressions, based on memory:

    1 – Human Behaviour – 4:12 No messin', way different to Suga-cubes, solid opening gambit
    2 – Crying – 4:51 – memories of this are supressed, think it might have been ok
    3 – Venus as a Boy – 4:42 – utter fucking shit
    4 – There's More to Life Than This – the one in the jacks? cool idea. she was already bored of "club culture" just as I was getting in to it. Bjork was NEVER in any of the cubicles in the temple of sound and believe you me, I checked
    5 – Like Someone in Love – 4:37 – don't remember this at all
    6 – Big Time Sensuality – 3:56 – pretty shit but there was a redeeming Fluke remix with a different video
    7 – One Day – fairly plodding, skippable
    8 – Aeroplane – not a clue
    9 – Come to Me – ya wha?
    10 – Violently Happy – 4:59 – same as one above but I think the original was better than the remix? Green walls, probably a good video at the time?
    11 – The Anchor Song – no memory but sounds like it might be terrible
    12 – Atlantic – no idea
    13 – Play Dead – 3:58 – Nope. Would put you right orf bjork but thankfully she had better stuff ahead.

    I

  12. Björk is always someone who I feel like I should love but she's never fully won me over. I've heard a few of the later albums but never this one. It's a bit of a mixed bag for me, I think her vocals and her lyrics are pretty great throughout but the music really goes up and down throughout. It's a strong start with "Human Behaviour", I like the trip hoppy feel to it and the vocals are brilliant. However, "Crying" immediately turns me off, the music is fucking awful. It's got that rigid, music software from the 90s feel to it where loops are just locked into place and very little is done to make it fully gel.

    Björk's back in my good books with "Venus as a Boy", again the lyrics are spot on and the mix of strange percussion and strings backing her is really nice. I like the effect of walking in and out of a party in "There's More to Life Than This" but the song itself doesn't do much for me (the little flute sound in the background is a bit annoying).

    Most of the "dance" tracks I find a bit dull, only "Violently Happy" makes this style work. The tracks with a more jazzy focus are my favourites, "Aeroplane" is fantastic and "The Anchor Song" is even better. These are more of what I was expecting from Björk.

    I'm glad "Play Dead" is tacked on at the end as it shows how strong she can be with a solid musical backing. It makes most of the rest of the album sound like a demo collection rather than a completed work.

    Lots of people saying how this hasn't dated but even at its best, it sounds very early 90s to me. Not in a bad way (well, not always in a bad way) but to me it sounds like a product of the technology and style of the time. A song like "Big Time Sensuality" could only come from 1993.

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