The Sugarcubes

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).

The Sugarcubes
The Sugarcubes in a promotional band photo
The Sugarcubes in a promotional band photo
Background information
OriginReykjavík, Iceland
Genres
Years active
  • 1986–1992
  • 2006
Labels
Associated acts
Past members

The Sugarcubes' debut album, Life's Too Good (1988), was an unexpected international success, and produced their signature song "Birthday". It is credited as the first Icelandic album to have a worldwide impact and influenced Icelandic popular music. Their follow-up album, Here Today, Tomorrow Next Week!, was released 1989 to mixed reviews. Their third and final album, Stick Around for Joy, released in February 1992, was better received and produced the successful singles "Hit" and "Leash Called Love". The Sugarcubes have been regarded as "the biggest rock band to emerge from Iceland."[1] Björk would later become an internationally successful solo musician and the bestselling Icelandic musician of all time.

HistoryEdit

1977–86: Formation and early yearsEdit

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 when she was 11. 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 group Kukl with keyboardist Einar Melax, and released two albums on the independent British record label Crass Records.

The Sugarcubes formed on 8 June 1986 with Björk on vocals, Björk's then-husband Þór (Thor) Eldon on guitar and Bragi Ólafsson on bass. On the same day, Björk gave birth to her and Þór Eldon's son, Sindri Eldon.[2] The band's name was assumed by its fans to be an LSD usage reference.[3]

1987–88: Life's Too GoodEdit

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.[4] Their music has been described as avant-pop,[5][6] 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.[7] In September, the band played at The Ritz in New York, a concert attended by David Bowie and Iggy Pop.[7] On 15 October the band appeared on Saturday Night Live with a performance of their hit single "Birthday".[8]

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.[9][7] 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 breakupEdit

At the conclusion of the tour in late 1990, the band members pursued their own interests.[7][9] Stick Around for Joy, their 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.[7]

A remix album, 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.[10]

The Sugarcubes disbanded in late December 1992. The members all still involved in the management of record label Smekkleysa (Bad Taste Ltd). Björk embarked on a solo career, coming to prominence with albums such as Debut (1993), Post (1995), and Homogenic (1997).

2006: ReunionEdit

On 17 November 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.[11] 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.

StyleEdit

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".[12] 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.[12] Pitchfork characterized the band as avant-rock.[13]

MembersEdit

 
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)
The Sugarcubes discography
Studio albums3
Compilation albums1
Video albums4
Music videos14
Singles14
Box sets4
Remix albums1

DiscographyEdit

Studio albumsEdit

Title Album details Peak chart positions
AUS
[14]
GER
[15]
NLD
[16]
SWE
[17]
UK
[18]
US
[19]
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 remixesEdit

Title Album details Peak chart positions
UK
[18]
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.

SinglesEdit

Year Song Peak chart positions Album
AUS
[14]
IRE
[20]
NZ
[21]
SWE
[17]
UK
[18]
UK Indie
[22]
US Mod Rock
[23]
US Dance
[24]
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 boxesEdit

Collaborations and featuringEdit

Other releasesEdit

VideographyEdit

Video albumsEdit

Music videosEdit

Year Title Director Ref.
1987 "Luftgitar" (w/ Johnny Triumph) The Sugarcubes [25]
"Ammæli" ("Birthday" Icelandic) Friðrik Þór Friðriksson / The Sugarcubes [26]
"Birthday" (English) Kristín Jóhannesdóttir / Saga Films [27]
"Birthday" (English, Live) Andy Lee / Martin Hart [28]
1988 "Cold Sweat" Óskar Jónasson / The Sugarcubes [29]
"Deus" Óskar Jónasson / Myndbandagerd Reykjavikur [30]
"Motorcrash" Óskar Jónasson / Frost Film [31]
1989 "Regina" Óskar Jónasson / Þorgeir Gunnarsson [32]
"Planet" Óskar Jónasson [33]
"Eat the Menu" Hyja Bio / Þorgeir Gunnarsson [34]
1991 "Hit" Óskar Jónasson [35]
1992 "Hit" (Version 2) Pedro Romhanyi [36]
"Walkabout" [37]
"Vitamin" The Sugarcubes [38]

[39]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Bjork Biography". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2017-03-14.
  2. ^ Stephen Thomas Erlewine. "The Sugarcubes | Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-08-21.
  3. ^ CDNX. "CDNX : The Sugarcubes". Retrieved 2017-03-15.
  4. ^ bbc.co.uk (2008). "Festive 50s". Retrieved 2008-10-25.
  5. ^ "Björk | Biography & History". AllMusic.
  6. ^ Group, Vibe Media (January 28, 2002). Vibe. Vibe Media Group. p. 100 – via Internet Archive. sugarcubes avant-pop.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Broderick, Matthew; Brown, A. Whitney; Carvey, Dana; Dunn, Nora (1988-10-15), Matthew Broderick/The Sugarcubes, retrieved 2017-03-15
  9. ^ a b "The secret history of Björk". thomasr.nvg.org. Retrieved 2017-03-15.
  10. ^ "The Sugarcubes – Chart history | Billboard". www.billboard.com. Retrieved 2017-03-15.
  11. ^ bjork.com (2006). "The Sugarcubes bounce back into concert!". Archived from the original on 2007-02-07. Retrieved 2006-10-02.
  12. ^ a b Robbins, Ira and Sheridan, David. "Sugarcubes". Trouserpress. Retrieved 1 August 2014.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  13. ^ "Explore Björk's Post in 5 Minutes". Pitchfork. 17 October 2017. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  14. ^ a b Australian (ARIA Chart) peaks:
  15. ^ "THE SUGARCUBES - LIFE'S TOO GOOD (ALBUM) - australian-charts.com". Hung Medien. Retrieved 2016-05-29.
  16. ^ "dutchcharts.nl > The Sugarcubes in Dutch Charts". Hung Medien. Retrieved 2016-05-29.
  17. ^ a b "swedishcharts.com > The Sugarcubes in Swedish Charts". Hung Medien. Retrieved 2016-04-16.
  18. ^ a b c UK chart peaks:
  19. ^ "Billboard > Artists / The Sugarcubes > Chart History > Billboard 200". Billboard. Retrieved 2016-04-16.
  20. ^ "The Irish Charts – All there is to know > Search results for 'Sugarcubes' (from irishcharts.ie)". Fireball Media. Retrieved 2016-04-16.
  21. ^ "charts.nz > The Sugarcubes in New Zealand Charts". Hung Medien. Retrieved 2016-04-16.
  22. ^ "Indie Hits "S"". Cherry Red Records. Archived from the original on 2009-07-20. Retrieved 2009-04-05.
  23. ^ "The Sugarcubes – US Alternative Songs". billboard.com. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  24. ^ "The Sugarcubes – US Dance Club Songs". billboard.com. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  25. ^ "The Sugarcubes & Johnny Triumph - Luftgitar". YouTube. June 30, 2007. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  26. ^ "The Sugarcubes - Birthday (Icelandic)". YouTube. June 30, 2007. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  27. ^ "Sugarcubes Birthday English". YouTube. December 6, 2010. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  28. ^ "The Sugarcubes - "Birthday" (English) New HD quality upload". YouTube. July 18, 2009. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  29. ^ "The Sugarcubes - Cold Sweat". YouTube. June 30, 2007. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  30. ^ "The Sugarcubes - Deus". YouTube. June 30, 2007. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  31. ^ "The Sugarcubes - Motorcrash". YouTube. June 30, 2007. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  32. ^ "the sugarcubes/sykurmolarnir : regina [surrounded]". YouTube. September 18, 2013. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  33. ^ "The Sugarcubes - Planet". YouTube. May 20, 2008. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  34. ^ "the sugarcubes/sykurmolarnir : eat the menu [surrounded]". YouTube. September 18, 2013. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  35. ^ "The Sugarcubes Hit". YouTube. January 18, 2013. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  36. ^ "The Sugarcubes - Hit". YouTube. June 30, 2007. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  37. ^ "The Sugarcubes - Walkabout". YouTube. June 30, 2007. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  38. ^ "The Sugarcubes - Vitamin". YouTube. June 30, 2007. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  39. ^ "Sugar Cubes* – The DVD". Discogs. June 2004. Retrieved June 9, 2020.

External linksEdit