REMEMBERING SUGARCUBES

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I’m sure many of you know that Bjork enjoyed a fair bit of fame pre-solo career with Sugarcubes, who until the recent emergence of Sigur Ros were probably about the only Icelandic pop act many of us could name. They formed in 1986, and went onto release three LPs on One Little Indian to mixed critical acclaim.

The debut LP Life’s Too Good was almost universally praised, with most focus being on the extraordinary vocal style of the gorgeous looking female lead singer. Indeed, lead-off single Birthday, was voted #1 in John Peel’s Festive Fifty in 1987. Surely the only ever record about a love affair between a five year old girl and her 50-year old neighbour…..if the tabloids had been able to make out the lyrics there would surely have been an outcry.

mp3 : Sugarcubes – Birthday

All of this attention and focus on Bjork didn’t sit entirely well with Einar Benediktsson the other vocalist in the group. The follow-up LP Here Today, Tomorrow, Next Week! featured far more of his contributions than before, a situation that led at least one reviewer to advise listeners that if they wanted to remain fans of the bands there were a number of tracks that the skip button had surely been invented for. The first single lifted from the LP brought Einar’s talents to the full:-

mp3 : Sugarcubes – Regina

The LP did climb in to the Top 20 of the album charts which created a situation where the band were in a sort of limbo…..being just too successful to be simply a cult indie band, but unable to make that leap into pop stardom via Radio 1 daytime exposure and Smash Hits magazine.

The next LP, Stick Around For Joy, took a fair bit of time and money to make…much of the recording was in an expensive studio in New York. It was far more of a pop album than any of the previous efforts and it did yield a cracking Top 20 single and an appearance on Top of The Pops:-

mp3 : Sugarcubes – Hit

Things might have turned out differently for everyone if the follow-up single had enjoyed similar success, but despite it being even more commercial than Hit, it sold dismally:-

mp3 : Sugarcubes – Walkabout

Two more flop singles followed, shortly followed by the inevitable break-up not long after. Bjork of course released a debut LP some 18 months later that turned her into a global superstar.

On 17th November 2006, Sugarcubes reformed for a one-off concert in Reykjavik to mark their 20th Anniversary. At the time, in a posting over at the old place, I did express a hope that maybe in 2011 for the 25th Anniversary they might briefly reform and tour. It didn’t happen and I’m guessing Bjork has a big enough pension fund to ensure it never will.

Sigh.

4 thoughts on “REMEMBERING SUGARCUBES

  1. It is good to get reminded to The Sugarcubes, that I’ve seen live back in 1986 on an open air concert. It was pretty much fun listen to them.

    I know two other bands from Iceland. First GusGus who made a few records with electronic music (not necessary to know but it was recommended from my younger brother) and second Mezzoforte a band that was famous in Germany for playing jazz, funk and crossover

    Cheers, Walter

  2. Probably one of the best bands I never saw live. I adored the Sugarcubes, still do, and I regard Björk as a bonafide genius.

    Iceland has loads of excellent music worth checking out (other than those mentioned by JC and Walter above). I recommend Mammút, Ólöf Arnalds, Leaves and múm (who recently released a fabulous track called ‘Whistle’ with Kylie Minogue – yes, really).

  3. I latched right onto The Sugarcubes after seeing their Icelandic video for “Birthday” on “Snub TV.” I thought that Björk was an incredibly expressive vocalist; right up there with Liz Fraser. But I also thought that Einar added a lot to the end results. An unpredictable and witty contrast to the band’s other vocalist. So much so, that I never really bothered following Björk’s solo career after it happened. I only just got her first two solo albums. They’re pretty good, but they don’t touch The Sugarcubes for me.

  4. Robster – I did see Sugarcubes live on their first US tour. The band members were hanging out in the club with the concertgoers in the club before the opening act. Very friendly and open people. I remember Einar holding court admirably. That was a fun evening and the only time Björk ever came to my town at the time.

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