100 Greatest Songs of the 80’s #55 The Sugarcubes – Birthday

Released : 1987

To many it seemed Björk Guðmundsdótti first appeared like some pixie who’d floated in from the bottom of our gardens, but a self titled debut album was released in her native Iceland in 1977, when she was only 11. Coming from an island with one radio station and which was then far more isolated from European culture than it is now, until to this point she’d remained a spectral figure to most living below the 62nd parrallel.

Never a straightforward performer or writer, the singer grew up in punk bands, at one point sharing a stage with British anarchist collective Crass, before The Sugarcubes formed around an arts collective. Birthday was their first single, the sort of happy accident which can make people forget you’ve been releasing records for a decade.

The song itself is a triumph of making the abstract accessible. The world is seen through the daydreams of a child, whispering a head full of little spells and incantations to a grown up’s celebration. That voice saws like a violin, flexing from tiger to kitten and back as the music – shuffling drums, ragged guitar – cement the impression that a gaggle of toddlers have been let loose on a room full of their parent’s discarded instruments.  Like a fairytale, it was a blurry introduction to a new pop star whose vast imaginarium would prove as strange as it was enchanting.


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