The Sugarcubes tonight. Fronted by the inimitable Björk and only together for a relatively short period of time (1986-1992), they managed to make an indelible impression on the Indie/Alternative scene, prompting such mainstream stalwart publications like Rolling Stone to proclaim them “the coolest band in the world”.
The Sugarcubes were the biggest group ever to emerge from Iceland, which helps explain their off-kilter sense of melody. Their 1988 debut Life’s Too Good attracted terrific reviews and became a college radio hit, but they never were able to recapture that sense of excitement.
According to group legend, the Sugarcubes formed on June 8, 1986, the day that vocalist Björk gave birth to her son. Prior to that day, the members of the group had been a variety of Icelandic bands. Björk had the longest career out of any of the members. By 1984, Björk, Einar Örn Benediktsson and Siggi Baldursson had joined forces, forming Kukl with keyboardist Einar Melax. KUKL — which means witchcraft in Icelandic — was an noisy, artsy post-punk band that released 2 albums on the independent British record label Crass. In 1986, KUKL evolved into the Sugarcubes, adding Björk’s then-husband Thor Eldon on guitar and Bragi Ólafsson on bass.
In late 1987, the band signed to One Little Indian in the U.K., Elektra Records in the U.S.
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.”
For a taste of what they were like in 1987, here is that session, recorded for John Peel in December of that year.