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Laughing Stock

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After the singular greatness of their previous album, Talk Talk came back with an album that went even deeper into the recesses of the spiritual mind. The album garnered comparisons to Miles Davis’ In a Silent Way for its placid surfaces and its deep emotional concerns. Singer Mark Hollis is working through his own personal soul music here. With the help of producer-multi-instrumentalist Tim Friese-Greene and a large variety of external musicians, including a classical ensemble, Talk Talk break through all the barriers of pop music and occasionally into the trance-like work of Steve Roach and David Sylvian. “Myrrhman” sets a dark tone. For a relatively brief five-and-a half-minutes, the dynamic never raises above a murmur. “Ascension Day” is nearly celebratory in comparison, with Hollis pulling out his Stevie Winwood-inspired blue-eyed soul among the ambient and avant-garde textures. “After the Flood” takes things to a brutal extreme with the organ doing serious battle. It’s an absolutely essential album and it would be Talk Talk’s final. All that followed was Mark Hollis’ excellent 1998 solo album and then his retirement.

Customer Reviews

This music *defines* "music" for a generation...

... and sets the standard for musicians to this day. None of Talk Talk's albums past It's My Life were given any radio play, and certainly were never on any of Billboard's charts, but they have defined music for their fans (and many musicians), and have been ceaselessly copied to this day and surely for countless days to come. To define this music you really have to begin using words that — unfortunately — begin to turn people off, because the words sound pompous, haughty and absurd. Words like "genius", "masterpiece", "brilliance" and so forth are acutely apt, but because of their overuse for pedestrian causes they (at the very least) lose meaning, and (usually) signal exaggeration and fan-demonium. To be sure those that use these words for Talk Talk's later work ARE fans, and probably in a state of pandemonium when they are speaking of said works, it just so happens (in this singular case) it is the truth. To compare, later works of Radiohead are VERY similar in so many way. NOT necessarily similar in tonality, but comparative in that each group EVOLVED and GREW in ways that most musical groups only DREAM of doing. Similar in that each group lost scores of fans in the pursuit of the new direction, and similar in that the music that was borne of their growth DEFINED "music" for their peers, and those fans that had the intelligence to understand what they were doing. Sadly, the exact word to use for those that could comprehend and appreciate both group's evolution was and is "intelligence", and that adds even more to the turn-off for those listening to *what* those that love the music... LOVE. Why? Because it is not the kind of music that satisfies on a visceral level *without* munching it about neurologically. Songs like "White Christmas" satisfy on a gut level without needing any thinking to do so. Talk Talk's later albums, and the same for Radiohead DEMAND that one stop, listen and *consider* to be truly loved and appreciated. Now, once you've done that, it becomes VERY visceral, to the 'enth degree. It, in fact, is so very moving that often it can cause all kinds of physical/emotional reactions. I've cried, laughed, awed, become depressed, been utterly relaxed, deeply angry, and even become physically *ill* when listening to their music. I became ill because the experience of listening to Laughing Stock was so very, very intense it was too much and I got a stomachache (no joke). I have grown so extremely tired of explaining WHY Talk Talk's music isn't 80's music that I have simply stopped doing so. It is an exercise in futility, now I simply play the music for those that I think can get it, and I just change the subject for those that I know could never appreciate what their ears are being treated to. Why Talk Talk's music is so good — in particular, but not only this album — has to do most with the *care* that is taken to create excellent sonic and melodic beauty. The leisurely pace, but by no means boring, takes real courage to do, especially in the "Rock" genre. Perfection in drumming is a BIG key, which may come as a surprise to those who feel that this era of music was only about drum kit back-up. NO, the percussion is superb and so perfectly accompanies the music, the melody, the *pacing* which is so important. The warbling, aching vocals of Mark Hollis are crucial. His voice seems to personify human suffering and joy at the same time, it is a singular, wonderful thing to behold. The use of new and strange instrumentation is also critical, particularly that which adds to what is commonly called discordant melodies. I can think of no better example than on the song “After the Flood” on Laughing Stock. Around about the four minute mark there begins a screeching sound that seems to be apart from the melody, but… the bass line and the melody have been hinting at something and suddenly it drops and it hits you that the screeching is a driving force like a straining voice singing “Go… go… keep… going…” until that point and then it punches through something and you feel it so strongly when you listen to it again, your stomach tightens, your teeth clench, you tense your entire body, and when that point hits, when the bass drops and the screeching punches through that sonic wall, it is like being BORN. It simply cannot be explained, as my putrid attempt clearly illustrates. I know this though, if I want to find out if a person shares my idea of what good music is or better yet, if they share my particular idea of what musical brilliance IS, I put on that song and sit back and wait. People that don’t get it think it is noise, people that do start breathing heavy and sometimes even tear up.
 If you like Radiohead’s later CDs, you will like Talk Talk’s later works, including this album. If you love Miles Davis, if you love the great jazz works, you will love this. You will really love this if you enjoy cloudy, rainy Sunday afternoons with the window open and a cool breeze blowing over you, with no one else around. If you like those things and you haven’t heard this music, ohhhh... I WISH I were you, hearing it for the first time, falling in love with it all over again. If you like those things and you don’t give this music a listen, then you don’t really like those things. This music IS beauty, it is actually what helps me define the term. It doesn’t get any more important and powerful than that.

Awaken to Wonder

I simply can not stop listening to this album. The music is an absolute joy that defies categorization. If all you know about Talk Talk is skinny ties and a simple dance beat, then you owe it to yourself to give this a try. Start with a long journey riding along with the delightful drumming behind New Grass. That song clocks in at a generous 9:40, so there is plenty of time to lose yourself. Thank you Lee, Paul and Mark for a refuge I have relied upon for years.

Laughing Stock

You owe it to yourself to check this album out. Simple and easily understood it is not. Beautiful it is. The Mark Hollis vocals are wet with curiousity and leave you wondering sometimes what he is saying but this doesn't diminish the albums intent nor does it remotely sound like the 80s pop songs released in the UK and USA. The vocals are only a small part of a much more elaborate Tim Friese Greene produced aural adventure. Talk Talk rose to moderate fame in the USA during the early eighties with "It's My Life" and "Happiness is Easy" in the club scene. While some of the percussive and pop rock elements remain "Laughing Stock" and the earlier released album "Spirit of Eden" is a departure from the POP culture in which the band arose. The album is a testament to musicians and listeners who are looking for more than what is on a cover. Take a look within and do yourself a favor!

Biography

Formed: 1981 in London, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s

With the exception of a handful of common threads -- chief among them the plaintive vocals and haunting lyrics of frontman Mark Hollis -- there is little to suggest that the five studio LPs that make up the Talk Talk oeuvre are indeed the work of the same band throughout. After beginning their career with records virtually epitomizing the new wave era that spawned them, the British group never looked back, making significant strides with each successive album on its way to discovering a wholly unique...
Full Bio
Laughing Stock, Talk Talk
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