On her second solo album, the Icelandic pixie princess continues to create her unique industrial-strength blend of synthesized house, disco, and ambient pop -- think of it as "Ice-house music." Bjork has referred to her former group, the Sugarcubes, as a "party band, a piss take." Here, as with her spectacular first solo outing, the cleverly titled Debut, she continues to shake off that past, exhibiting a resplendent savvy for quirky hooks and earthly songwriting. With conviction in her shrill whammy-bar of a voice, her words on songs such as "Army of Me" come across as more than compelling A they're puissant, as if she's got a Napoleon complex without any of the petty tyranny. Then, without missing a groove, she adopts the role of nymph on "Possibly Maybe," sweetly pleading and flirting, "As much as I definitely enjoy solitude, I wouldn't mind spending time with you." This dichotomous approach makes for a lissome adventure, especially on her shoulder-rolling big band number, "It's Oh So Quiet," as Bjork squeaks and squeals "Ssshhh" over the backdrop of a lush brass section. Updating the old Jekyll and Hyde bit never sounded so good.
Starting off as a studiously frivolous party band with a cult following in their native Buenos Aires, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs have evolved into the consummate Latin rock-dance act, their hyperactive mix of tropical rhythms and grunge attitude ultimately spawning a movement of imitators in Argentina and other South American countries.
Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, of Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club fame, produced Los Fabulosos Cadillacs' ninth release, Rey Azucar, whose sixteen tracks are typical Cadillacs fare: brass-heavy ska and reggae fused with Latin genres (samba and tango) and a rock sensibility best expressed through a rough rhythmic edge. Add to that lead singer Vicentico's gruff vocals, which adapt easily to everything the band tackles, from lackadaisical ballads to aggressive rap. To their credit, Frantz and Weymouth have engineered a solid production of intricately layered sounds, but the album lacks the raw chaos of past Cadillacs efforts, the element that perhaps constitutes the real charm of this band.
Rey Azucar, however, is redeemed by a number of unexpected guest appearances: Big Audio Dynamite's Mick Jones pitches in with prissy, British-accented Spanish on the chorus of "Mal Bicho"; Debbie Harry makes a sultry contribution (in English) on the Cadillacs' cover of the Beatles' "Strawberry Fields Forever," while alternately Vicentico drunkenly slurs the same lyrics in Spanish; and Big Youth vocalist Dread performs a tough dub reggae rap on "Raggapunkypartyrebelde." Mixed here at South Beach Studios, the album includes a backhanded homage to this place, the ska ballad "Miami," whose lyrics gibe, "Spiritual life doesn't exist here, in this Hell." As if Buenos Aires is paradise.