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Maybe This Christmas Tree
Unwritten Law "Here's to the Mourning"
Kreator "Enemy of God"
Isidore (Brash)
In Battle "Welcome to the Battlefield"
Far "Water & Solutions"
Kukl "The Eye," "Holidays in Europe"
The Arcade Fire "Funeral"
Macha "Forget Tomorrow"
Authority Zero "Andiamo"

 

Kukl "The Eye," "Holidays in Europe"

Kukl was a band from Iceland in the mid-‘80s that, for those who don't know, featured Björk on vocals. Now that Björk, post-Kukl/Sugarcubes, has vaulted into nearly living legend status, when and if you hear Kukl mentioned it’s usually along the lines of "oh yeah, that was Björk's first band… they were like, punk or something." Both premises prove to be only slightly accurate. At the tender age of 12, Björk was already running around Iceland, a restless weirdo on fire, dabbling in various musical projects and playing in a "punk" band called Spit And Snot. Not long after that, Kukl was formed from the various spare parts of about five other Icelandic bands, all of which you may rightly assume fall into the contemporary/experimental category.

Their two main recordings, The Eye and Holidays in Europe (originally released on Crass Records), are the group’s sole studio efforts. The intended purpose of the band was to "not conform," and act as a beacon for other intellectual weirdos. Their sound was perhaps less about music than it was about communicating ideas. Therefore, it’s a bit difficult to decipher these testaments to chaotic self indulgence, especially when it involves a great mind like that of Björk’s.

First off, "punk rock" this ain't. Those expecting to hear something raw, unpolished, and aggressive may be disappointed. The production values on these recordings alone remove them instantly from almost anything considered "punk." If anything, the sounds, apart from the music, are quite contemporary for the time, ala Siouxsie & The Banshees, Kate Bush, and even the soon to be Sugarcubes. No doubt punk music influenced the attitude in a "who gives a shit" kinda way, but that's where it ends. Musically, it is quite obviously a precursor to Sugarcubes, but with much more dense song structures overall and atonal skronk requiring multiple listens to decode. While many tracks off of The Eye have a fascinating sense of adventure, clever usage of flutes, whistles, horns, and drums, there is a side to it that smacks of "forced weirdness." It's one thing to be different because you are different, and quite another to be weird on purpose / putting on an act. But integrity and honesty are such hard things to judge from so far a distance. Who knows?

Of the two records, The Eye is the more song/listener friendly of the two, whereas Holidays in Europe simply reeks of "emperor's new clothes" coolness. Weird songs for cool kids in a special club where only they truly understand what's going on, because, yes, they are special. With history now as our guide, clearly what was going on here was Björk, bursting with creative fire, torching everything around her, unable to focus her powers. If nothing else, these recordings are an interesting look into the musical beginnings of Björk as an artist: an avant-punque banshee, fearless and destined to outshine her fellow musician friends.

   

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