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Pop Music : Sugarcubes Are Not All Sweetness

April 27, 1992|CHRIS WILLMAN

Unlike any other rock band that comes to mind, the Sugarcubes seem adorable and dangerous in equal measure, like a cuddly-looking raccoon.

And perennially "pixie-ish" lead singer Bjork Gudmundsdottir was at her disarmingly cutest on Friday night at the sold-out Wiltern Theatre. With her hair bunned up on both sides for a Mickey Mouse-ears effect as she sensually jogged in place, she looked like the world's sweetest femme fatale-- Pippi Longstocking in Armageddon?

As is the eccentric Icelanders' custom, Bjork's beautiful, beseeching wail was e'er offset by the spoken rambling of fellow front person Einar Orn, whose accented rants land somewhere between rap and the kind of preaching you might hear from a downtown street-corner schizophrenic.

The odd couple's twin shtick hasn't changed much in the four years since the Sugarcubes' first album, but it remains surprisingly effective, particularly live, with a galvanizing presence not always entirely evident on the albums.

There was powerful dynamism put not only into an obvious standout like the new single "Hit" (an uncharacteristically sincere love lament that cops a riff from the James Bond theme) but also even a throwaway goof like "Chihuahua," which exists mainly so the playful leads can chant the guttural title.

Though the 95-minute show stayed exciting throughout, the most memorable number came first, with "Gold"--which had the band eerily backlit in an appropriately golden glow, like spastic figurines in one of Andres Serrano's weirdly pretty urine photos. Here, as usual, Bjork sang with tremendous catch-in-the-voice soul, to where a casual listener would never guess the mostly indecipherable lyrics are almost all anarchic irony and little emotion. That raccoon bites.

Irony also seems to be the main informing ingredient of opening band Cracker, the new project of David Lowery, formerly of the equally wiseacre Camper Van Beethoven. Much more than the 'cubes or Camper, Cracker played relatively straight-ahead rock, full of smarts, guitars and crankiness. That outfit is due for local headlining shows in June; the Sugarcubes wrap up their local stay at the Palace on Tuesday.

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