The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011


Bjork 'Volta'

Review Snapshot:
This reviewer's first childhood memory was hearing the Beatles' "I want to hold your hand" and he's been in love with pop music ever sionce then,"Volta", Bjork's sixth album, is the worst album this reviewer has ever heard.

The CLUAS Verdict? 0 out of 10

Full Review:
Very little music actually depresses me – not even the suicide note that is Joy Division’s “Closer”. A couple of tracks in it has “Isolation”, a bit of a stomper, although its subject matters are alienation and despair. I loved The Smiths but, as Noel Gallagher rightly pointed out, many of their actual tunes are foot tappers. Old grumps like Joy Division, Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen, John Martyn, the Floyd, Suede, and Lou Reed have looked on and walked us through the dark side, but these musicians’ portrayal of unhappiness and depression is sometimes so beautiful and evocative that the music becomes something to be cherished and revisited rather than dreaded and avoided.

And yet - I can remember a Wednesday, sometime in June 1981, I was bored as only a twenty year old can be. Someone gave me “Selling England by the Pound” by Genesis. I forced myself through it with the youthful optimism that only a twenty year old can have. Big mistake. This album was truly dreadful, overblown, over arranged, over thought, and overplayed prog rock. “Battle of Epping Forest “ in particular drained me of my will to live. I was utterly downtrodden by the end of it, not because of the music itself, which was longwinded and tireseome, but by the thought that this band of talented musicians had spent so long and their record company had spent so much money putting this product on the streets. No-one had the sense or courage to say thus far and no further shall you go. Think of it too, the record company could have spent the money promoting someone with something new and valid to say. Instead we were left with the musical equivalent of Emperor’s new clothes.

26 years on, I never thought I’d get that miffed, bothered or upset by an album and then I heard “Volta”, Bjork’s latest. Pessimists, as they say, are never disappointed. I saw her performing “Earth Intruders”, “Volta’”s opener, on Jools Holland’s “Later”, with a cast of thousands. It’s Reel 2 Real’s “Move it” reduced to a clumpy tempo with added orchestra, fiddly percussion bits and of course Bjork herself on vocals. It sounded horrendous, and the Beeb subsequently showed her performing it at Glastonbury. Same cast, same sound, same result.

“Earth Intruders”, like the rest of “Volta”, takes several listens for the listener to appreciate how gut wrenchingly awful it is. Her vocals are mannered and formulaic – restrained verses are followed by screeching choruses that blip off the radar and set distant dogs barking. It’s arty, it’s fussy and ultimately it’s a gratingly smug package. Unbelievably it gets worse as the album progresses-or declines. "Wanderlust” is wretchedly drippy, and “pneumonia” and “vertebrae by vertebrae” are as painful as their titles suggest. “Declare independence” is root canal surgery set to music. Antony Hegarty duets with Bjork on the “the dull flame of desire”, which is merely vibratoed highly mannered crap but it’s far better than the rest of the worthless screed played out on “Volta”.  

Bjork has talent that desperately needs to be properly harnessed. Her earlier material was quirky, her melodies and lyrics sounded as if they were recorded on another planet but she was operating within a disciplined framework of good solid arrangements and sparse production With “Volta” however she has managed to produce that rare thing, a timeless album- its base badness won’t date, 50 years down the line it will still sound as contrived, as forced, and ultimately, as hollow as it did the day it was let loose on the world.

“Volta” is the worst album I’ve ever heard. Bar none. If by these words I’ve prevented one person from buying this stinking heap I’ll face my maker a happy man. 

Anthony Morrissey

 To buy a new or (very reasonably priced) 2nd hand copy of this album on Amazon just click here.

More ...

[Read More...]

Posted in: Album Reviews
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |

Search Articles

Nuggets from our archive

2005Michael Jackson: demon or demonised? Or both?, written by Aidan Curran. Four years on this is still a great read, especially in the light of his recent death. Indeed the day after Michael Jackson died the CLUAS website saw an immediate surge of traffic as thousands visited to read this very article.