The Sugarcubes | Life’s Too Good – 1988

This is an Icelandic band of note, and a time of unfortunate dogs

Inner city living was transitory and I was just a suburban boy living in the inner city.

For me, the soundtrack of that time was a weird mix of pop and dance and club, or the soundtrack to Paris, Texas. The taste in music was eclectic and slightly out of focus, much like Bjork’s career.

Guess I’d been living in Darlinghurst for two or three years by ’88. I loved it. I walk up to a club or a restaurant on the spur of the moment, not something we do often now.

The walk to Darlinghurst cinema on a Saturday night was about twenty minutes. By the end of the walk I would be so entertained I wouldn’t need to see a movie.

It was, as always, an odd time in the world; Sonny Bono had been elected mayor of Palm Springs, Celine Dion wins Eurovision Song contest, and the World Expo is held in Brisbane. It was the time of Perestroika.

The house was 247a Bourke Street in Darlinghurst. The surrounding buildings were derelict and full of squatters. Houses that were being pulled down around us to make room for progress. Progress was happening all over and we could see the cost of it locally.

Some of our neighbours were Rajneeshies, a cult more commonly known as Orange people. They were lovely, gentle people. They always worn orange clothes, orange hair. They had a little dog that the dyed orange in celebration of their religion. Unfortunately for the dog, the religion ran into some tax and murder and terrorism problems and decided that it would re-brand itself as the Rainbow people’s religion. The directive came down for them wear every bright colour, except maybe orange. They shaved the orange hair off the dog, only to discover that the dog’s skin had been coloured. We would never laugh when they walked past, all colourful with their skinny, naked, orange dog.

We had a dog in the house around then, the unfortunately named, Tripper. Tripper’s name was probably a drug reference, but became more poignant when we came home one day to find he a had received a severely broken and dislocated leg that would need amputation. Don’t let your dog wander the busy inner city streets. He became a local identity, the three legged half-dingo dog. In Darlinghurst, in those days, everyone became a local identity.

For me, this album came out of nowhere. I don’t remember buying it or when I first heard the songs. I do remember the bright cover, simple and eye catching during a time of post punk / new wave darkness.

The Sugarcubes looked like a dozen bands that were playing at the Strand or the Tivoli in the late ’80s. Their sound was something very different. This is a pop / rock album. Lots of guitars and drums, belting out pop songs, but apart from the occasionally treated drums (“Birthday”) they were straight up and down, in a twisted kind of way.

The best reviews I’ve read about The Sugarcubes state that they were a band, they weren’t Bjork and the Sugarcubes. It was a band that would put both Fleetwood Mac and Abba to shame for divorce and matings. Have a read of this wikipedia excerpt;

“By the time the group recorded its second album, Þór had divorced Björk and married Magga Ornolfsdottir, who became the group’s keyboardist after Einar Melax left. Bragi divorced his wife – who happened to be the twin sister of Siggi’s wife – and married Einar Örn, making their union the first openly gay marriage in pop music. Their marriage later turned out to be a hoax.”

In several songs, Bjork is little more than the background vocals; grunting, snarling and soaring through the choruses or behind the guitars and horns. At the time it was wonderfully shocking to hear this in pop music. This was pop music, guitar and horn driven. ‘Traitor’ for example is a song about sleeping in and missing your own execution. The lyrics on this album are the carelessness of lyrics created when English isn’t your first language. It adds to the other-worldly flavour on this song and carries through the whole album.

Bjork’s voice is remarkably, strong. It is the voice we now know, but then it had come from nowhere. She looked 14 years old when this was recorded (she had recorded her first album at the age of 11). She was 18 and her voice cut through everything. The song Birthday is worth a listen.

Whenever I listen to to this album, and I do ever year, I remember Darlinghurst days. I remember the last views of some old friends. I remember the last views of old friends. I remember Georgina M performing in fringe shows and talking about the Violent Femmes. And I remember Kathy H. visiting in Bourke St, driving the wrong way down Bourke Street and parking out the front of our house.

An old life was fading to memory, as memory itself is fading.

Sykurmolarnir, is Icelandic for sugar cubes

Vocals: Björk Guðmundsdóttir and Einar Örn Benediktsson.
Trumpet: Einar Örn Benediktsson.
Guitars: Þór Eldon Jónsson.
Keyboards: Björk Guðmundsdóttir.
Bass: Bragi Ólafsson.
Drums: Sigtryggur Baldursson.

Track listing
  1. Traitor – 3:08
  2. Motorcrash – 2:23
  3. Birthday – 3:56
  4. Delicious Demon – 2:43
  5. Mamma – 2:56
  6. Cold Sweat – 3:15
  7. Blue Eyed Pop – 2:38
  8. Deus – 4:07
  9. Sick for Toys – 3:15
  10. Fucking in Rhythm and Sorrow – 3:14
  11. Take some Petrol Darling (Hidden Track) – 1:27
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One Response to The Sugarcubes | Life’s Too Good – 1988

  1. Pingback: A life in albums | michaelsprott

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