The Sugarcubes

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The Sugarcubes
The Sugarcubes.jpg
The Sugarcubes in a promotional band photo
Background information
Origin Reykjavík, Iceland
Genres
Years active 1986–1992, 2006
Labels
Associated acts
Past members Björk Guðmundsdóttir
Einar Örn Benediktsson
Sigtryggur Baldursson
Þór Eldon
Bragi Ólafsson
Margrét Örnólfsdóttir
Einar Arnaldur Melax

The Sugarcubes (Icelandic: Sykurmolarnir) were an Icelandic alternative rock band from Reykjavík formed in 1986 and disbanded in 1992. For most of their career, the band consisted of Björk (vocals, keyboards), Einar Örn Benediktsson (vocals, trumpet), Þór Eldon (guitar), Bragi Ólafsson (bass), Margrét "Magga" Örnólfsdóttir (keyboards) and Sigtryggur Baldursson (drums). Lead singer Björk would later become an internationally successful solo musician and the best selling Icelandic musician of all time.

The band received critical and popular acclaim internationally. Their debut studio album, Life's Too Good, was released in April 1988 to unexpected international success. It is credited as the first Icelandic album to have a worldwide impact and is considered a definite influence on all subsequent Icelandic popular music. It spawned the band's signature hit "Birthday". Their follow-up album, Here Today, Tomorrow Next Week!, was released in September 1989 to lukewarm reviews from some critics and fans. Their third and final album, Stick Around for Joy, released in February 1992, was more well received by both fans and critics and had two successful singles: "Hit" and "Leash Called Love." The Sugarcubes have been regarded as "the biggest rock band to emerge from Iceland."[1]

History[edit]

1977–86: Formation and early years[edit]

The members of The Sugarcubes had formerly been in a variety of Icelandic bands. Björk had the longest career out of any of the members; she had recorded an album as early as 11 years old. In her late teens, she joined the Icelandic post-punk band Tappi Tíkarrass, who released two albums before splitting in 1983. Drummer Sigtryggur "Siggi" Baldursson was a member of Þeyr, while Einar Örn Benediktsson and Bragi Ólafsson formed a punk band called Purrkur Pillnikk. By 1984, Björk, Einar Örn and Siggi had formed the supergroup KUKL with keyboardist Einar Melax, and released two albums on the independent British record label Crass Records.[2]

The Sugarcubes formed on June 8, 1986, with Björk on vocals, Björk's then-husband Þór (Thor) Eldon on guitar and Bragi Ólafsson on bass. That same day, Björk gave birth to her and Þór Eldon's son, Sindri Eldon.[3] The band's name was assumed by its fans to be an LSD usage reference.[4]

1987–88: Life's Too Good[edit]

In late 1987, the band signed to One Little Indian in the UK and to Elektra Records in the US. They released their debut album Life's Too Good in 1988 to critical acclaim in both the UK and the US. They first came to notice in the UK when BBC radio DJ John Peel played "Birthday", which was later voted by his listeners as #1 in the 1987 Festive Fifty, and #23 in the All Time Chart.[5] Their music has been described as avant-pop,[6][7] and was characterized by a psychedelic post-punk sound sometimes reminiscent of The B-52's and Talking Heads, whimsical yet heartfelt lyrics, and the imploring, girlish voice of Björk, accompanied by Einar Örn's erratic vocal performances. In the last quarter of 1988, The Sugarcubes toured North America to positive reception.[8] In September, the band played at The Ritz in New York, a concert attended by David Bowie and Iggy Pop.[8] On October 15, the band appeared on Saturday Night Live with a performance of their hit single "Birthday".[9]

1989–90: Here Today, Tomorrow Next Week![edit]

Here Today, Tomorrow Next Week!, the band's second album, was released in September 1989. The greater vocal contribution by Einar Örn on the record was criticized in many of the record's reviews, which were noticeably weaker than those for Life's Too Good.[10][8] Not all critics agreed that it was worse than their debut album, though. Robert Christgau rated it a B+, higher than the B- he gave Life's Too Good. The singles "Regina" and "Planet" topped the UK indie charts but fared poorly in the mainstream charts outside of Iceland. After the release of Here Today, Tomorrow Next Week!, the band embarked on a lengthy international tour. At the end of the tour, they started to ponder about splitting up and went on a hiatus.

1990–92: Stick Around for Joy and breakup[edit]

At the conclusion of the tour in late 1990, the band members pursued their own individual interests.[8][10] Stick Around for Joy, the band's third and final album, was released in February 1992. It featured guest guitarist John McGeoch (formerly of Magazine and Siouxsie and the Banshees) on the opening track "Gold".The album received noticeably better reviews than Here Today, Tomorrow Next Week!, and spawned the band's first big hit single, the aptly titled "Hit". Further singles "Walkabout" and "Vitamin" failed to make any chart impact. The Sugarcubes opened for U2 during the US leg of their Zoo TV Tour in October and November 1992, playing to a grand total of 700,000 people.[8]

A remix album entitled It's-It was released in October 1992 along with a re-release of "Birthday" which was backed by numerous remixes of the song. One single that was released from the compilation, the Tony Humphries remix of "Leash Called Love", reached number one on Billboard's Hot Dance Club Songs Chart in 1992.[11]

The Sugarcubes disbanded in late December 1992. The members remain friends to this day and are all still involved in the management of record label Smekkleysa (Bad Taste Ltd).

2006: Reunion[edit]

On November 17, 2006, the band had a one-off reunion concert at Laugardalshöll sport arena in Reykjavík, Iceland, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their debut single "Birthday" with all profits going to the non-profit Smekkleysa SM to promote Icelandic music.[12] They were supported by fellow Icelandic groups múm and Rass. Despite this reunion, the group has expressed that it has no intention to play future shows or record new material.

Style[edit]

Trouser Press wrote that the drumming and guitar work were influenced by Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees and also Cocteau Twins on the slow numbers. The group also incorporated "electronically mutated trumpet and sound effects".[13] The other instrument is Björk's voice, containing a "range of emotions", being one moment "a little girl soprano" and then next "a crazed animal". Einar also sings on certain tracks with Björk on background vocals.[13] Pitchfork characterized the band as avant-rock.[14]

Members[edit]

The Sugarcubes performing in Japan
  • Björk Guðmundsdóttir – vocals, keyboards
  • Einar Örn Benediktsson – vocals, trumpet
  • Sigtryggur Baldursson – drums, percussion
  • Þór Eldon – guitar
  • Bragi Ólafsson – bass
  • Margrét "Magga" Örnólfsdóttir – keyboards (1989-1992, 2006)
  • Einar Melax – keyboards (1987-1989; replaced by Margrét Örnólfsdóttir)
  • Fridrik Erlingsson – guitar (left the band at the time of the first album release)

Discography[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

Title Album details Peak chart positions
AUS
[15]
GER
[16]
NLD
[17]
SWE
[18]
UK
[19]
US
[20]
Life's Too Good 64 48 14 54
Here Today, Tomorrow Next Week!
  • Released: September 1989
  • Label: One Little Indian, Elektra
  • Formats: CD, LP, cassette
15 70
Stick Around for Joy
  • Released: 18 February 1992
  • Label: One Little Indian, Elektra
  • Formats: CD, LP, cassette
74 58 71 29 16 95
"—" denotes items which were not released in that country or failed to chart.

Compilations and remixes[edit]

Title Album details Peak chart positions
UK
[19]
It's-It
  • Release date: 27 October 1992
  • Label: One Little Indian, Elektra
  • Formats: CD, LP, cassette
47
The Great Crossover Potential
  • Released: 14 July 1998
  • Label: One Little Indian, Elektra
  • Formats: CD, LP, cassette
161
"—" denotes items which were not released in that country or failed to chart.

Singles[edit]

Year Song Peak chart positions Album
AUS
[15]
IRE
[21]
NZ
[22]
SWE
[18]
UK
[19]
UK Indie
[23]
US Mod Rock
[24]
US Dance
[25]
1986 "Einn Mol'á Mann" (ICE only) (as Sykurmolarnir) non-album singles
1987 "Luftguitar" (ICE only) (as Johnny Triumph & Sykurmolarnir)
"Birthday" 65 2 Life's Too Good
1988 "Coldsweat" 56 1
"Deus" 51 2
"Birthday" (Reissue) 41 65 1
"Motorcrash" (Continental Europe/US only) 10
1989 "Regina" 27 55 1 2 Here Today, Tomorrow Next Week!
"Planet" 97
1992 "Hit" 76 18 28 17 1 Stick Around for Joy
"Walkabout" 16
"Vitamin"
"Leash Called Love" 1
"Birthday Remix" 64 It's It
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released.

Vinyl and CD boxes[edit]

Collaborations and featuring[edit]

Other releases[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Bjork Biography". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2017-03-14. 
  2. ^ "Kukl Discography at Discogs". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  3. ^ Stephen Thomas Erlewine. "The Sugarcubes | Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  4. ^ CDNX. "CDNX : The Sugarcubes". Retrieved 2017-03-15. 
  5. ^ bbc.co.uk (2008). "Festive 50s". Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  6. ^ AllMusic
  7. ^ Vibe
  8. ^ a b c d e grapevine.is (2011-02-11). "Dr. Gunni's History Of Icelandic Rock / Part 27 - The Reykjavik Grapevine". The Reykjavik Grapevine. Archived from the original on 2014-03-05. Retrieved 2017-03-15. 
  9. ^ Broderick, Matthew; Brown, A. Whitney; Carvey, Dana; Dunn, Nora (1988-10-15), Matthew Broderick/The Sugarcubes, retrieved 2017-03-15 
  10. ^ a b "The secret history of Björk". thomasr.nvg.org. Retrieved 2017-03-15. 
  11. ^ "The Sugarcubes - Chart history | Billboard". www.billboard.com. Retrieved 2017-03-15. 
  12. ^ bjork.com (2006). "The Sugarcubes bounce back into concert!". Retrieved 2006-10-02. 
  13. ^ a b Robbins, Ira and Sheridan, David. "Sugarcubes". Trouserpress. Retrieved 1 August 2014. 
  14. ^ "Explore Björk's Post in 5 Minutes". Pitchfork. 17 October 2017. Retrieved 17 October 2017. 
  15. ^ a b Australian (ARIA Chart) peaks:
  16. ^ "THE SUGARCUBES - LIFE'S TOO GOOD (ALBUM) - australian-charts.com". Hung Medien. Retrieved 2016-05-29. 
  17. ^ "dutchcharts.nl > The Sugarcubes in Dutch Charts". Hung Medien. Retrieved 2016-05-29. 
  18. ^ a b "swedishcharts.com > The Sugarcubes in Swedish Charts". Hung Medien. Retrieved 2016-04-16. 
  19. ^ a b c UK chart peaks:
  20. ^ "Billboard > Artists / The Sugarcubes > Chart History > Billboard 200". Billboard. Retrieved 2016-04-16. 
  21. ^ "The Irish Charts – All there is to know > Search results for 'Sugarcubes' (from irishcharts.ie)". Fireball Media. Retrieved 2016-04-16. 
  22. ^ "charts.org.nz > The Sugarcubes in New Zealand Charts". Hung Medien. Retrieved 2016-04-16. 
  23. ^ "Indie Hits "S"". Cherry Red Records. Archived from the original on 2009-07-20. Retrieved 2009-04-05. 
  24. ^ "The Sugarcubes - US Alternative Songs". billboard.com. Retrieved 2016-02-05. 
  25. ^ "The Sugarcubes - US Dance Club Songs". billboard.com. Retrieved 2016-02-05. 

External links[edit]