Anyone familiar with the mammoth Björk merchandising machine giving this latest release a cursory glance might well think that the folks at One Little Indian had one toke too many on the peace pipe— TWENTY versions of the same song, have they all gone utterly butterly ? Delving very little further than examining the sleeve, however, reveals a more gracious rationale for this newest apparent extortion.
Always fiercely protective of her own progeny, to which a certain rather bruised journalist would surely attest, Björk now extends her maternal warmth (via UNICEF) to the children of southeast Asia whose lives were altered dramatically by last year’s Boxing Day tsunami. Indeed, as with past Björk remix projects, dramatic alterations are the order of the day on this bizarre collection. Equal parts a game of kiss chase with the sublime and chicken with the ridiculous, it is at the very least audacious. Ironically, however, the true audacity lies in the song itself, a stern slap on the bum of self-pity—“We won’t save you, your rescue squad is too exhausted...” and so on. Hardly a charitable sentiment is it ?
Back in 1995, Army Of Me was the lead single from Björk’s second solo album proper, Post, spawning a host of remixes and even a version with her now-defunct ex-labelmates, Skunk Anansie. In fact, the 10- year old song has attracted so much attention from remixers and reinterpreters alike that Björk herself threw down the gauntlet to visitors of her official website to contribute to this project. In less than a fortnight, she was deluged with over 600 responses, and so, having roped in the song’s original collaborator, Graham Massey of 808 State, the two set about what must have been a task both arduous and intriguing. Interestingly, it’s the second time that Björk has harnessed the internet for tracklisting purposes—the website vote for her Greatest Hits (2002) album famously resulted in It’s Oh So Quiet, her, er, greatest hit, getting swiftly kicked to the curb.
So what of those that made the cut ? Only Patrick Wolf, the UK’s very own self-styled libertine folk curio, is instantly recognisable from the list of contributors, all of whom hail from either Europe or North America. The best tracks here are those that keep it mellow and antidotal to the original. French band Grisbi turn in a lovely sultry bossa nova, the UK’s Martin White gets wheezily wistful on the accordion and pan- European consortium Lunamoth capitalise on the marriage of harp and muted electronica best consummated on Björk’s own Vespertine (2001). Predictably, there are at least two versions that hark back to Björk’s early punk bands, Kukl and Tappi Tíkarrass, but these are probably best avoided. Likewise with the offerings by the demented Dr Gunni and the clearly piss-taking Messengers Of God, whose country and western adaptation is nothing short of risible.
With a fundraising target of £250,000 within the first 10 days of sale, it’s an ambitious endeavour, though woefully misguided, and it’s unlikely that even diehard Björk fans will want to play this in its entirety more than once. Is it value for money ? Not really, but buy it anyway and think of the children.