1977–86: Formation and early years
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 as early as 11 years old. In her late teens, she joined the Icelandic post-punk band Tappi Tíkarrass, who released two albums before splitting in 1983. Drummer 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 supergroup KUKL with keyboardist Einar Melax, and released two albums on the independent British record label Crass Records.
The Sugarcubes formed on June 8, 1986, with Björk on vocals, Björk's then-husband Þór (Thor) Eldon on guitar and Bragi Ólafsson on bass. That same day, Björk gave birth to her and Þór Eldon's son, Sindri Eldon. The band's name was assumed by its fans to be an LSD usage reference.
1987–88: Life's Too Good
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. Their music has been described as avant-pop, 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. In September, the band played at The Ritz in New York, a concert attended by David Bowie and Iggy Pop. On October 15, the band appeared on Saturday Night Live with a performance of their hit single "Birthday".
1989–90: Here Today, Tomorrow Next Week!
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. 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 breakup
At the conclusion of the tour in late 1990, the band members pursued their own individual interests. Stick Around for Joy, the band's 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.
A remix album entitled 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.
The Sugarcubes disbanded in late December 1992. The members remain friends to this day and are all still involved in the management of record label Smekkleysa (Bad Taste Ltd).
On November 17, 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. 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.