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Old 12-05-2010, 04:57 PM   #31 (permalink)
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Great review mate. I am so glad there are a few Talk Talk fans on MB.
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Old 12-06-2010, 09:54 AM   #32 (permalink)
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I am so glad there are a few Talk Talk fans on MB.
Ditto. It's great to have a good spot like this to just let it all out eh

As for Laughing Stock, I probably won't be logging in every day, but I'll certainly be around more often than I have been in recent weeks, at least for the next month or so, so as I say I doubt it'll be so long before I can move on to Hollis' solo stuff, O'Rang or whatever else I can get my hands on.
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Old 12-20-2010, 08:01 AM   #33 (permalink)
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As promised some time ago, here's another bundle of words and pictures for you to look at...

Talk Talk
Laughing Stock
1991


1. Myrrhman
2. Ascension Day
3. After the Flood
4. Taphead
5. New Grass
6. Runeii

Picture this - you've started out as, despite a few really, really cool songs, another new wave pop group, and then you've spread your wings using pop music as a perch of sorts to take in elements of classical, jazz, chamber music and ambient music, before you then abandon that core you have in the melody-happy music of pop altogether and form an entirely new kind of musical expression with your new-found influences. Where do you go next? Well, first of all, as I'm sure anyone else would do having stumbled on the gorgeous yet unconventional imagery of an experiment like the music of post-rock, Talk Talk decided it wouldn't exaxctly be a bad idea to try and capture the magic of Spirit Of Eden again, as if to prove to themselves that this breed of post-rock was no accident. Or at least the remnants of Talk Talk did - bassist Paul Webb had ditched the group by this point (hence the lack of much audible bass you'll hear on this album). Plus, you've gotta bear in mind that since the Colour Of Spring (and especially during the recording of Spirit Of Eden), the once democratic, four-way songwriting partnership that was Talk Talk had basically become a moniker for the studio recordings of lead singer and guitarist Mark Hollis, as well as keyboardist and producer Tim Friese-Greene, each played with the assistance of drummer Neil Harris and an army of session musicians. Secondly, it was with this album that Hollis started to exercise even more control over Talk Talk, as even Friese-Greene was pushed out of the limelight here, having any real (at least in the form of a songwriting credit) on one song. The rest of Laughing Stock - initially the first of what was meant to be two new albums for Talk Talk's new label Polydor - was essentially a Mark Hollis solo album.

So, Hollis was probably getting a bit megalomaniacal (try saying that three times fast) in his old age but, having at least helped steer both of Talk Talk's last two studio projects in the majestic directions they had been, can you blame him

Anyway, let's start talking about some tracks here. And, yes, unlike the opening side of Spirit Of Eden, each of these tracks on show are indeed edited as being seperate. It's an album that was cobbled together in the same way as the one that came before it (instrumental tracks cobbled together from hours of instrumental improvisation and then overdubbed with vocals), but one that still sounds that slightest bit unique from it, as the opening Myrrhman shows. At first glance, it doesn't sound an awful lot unlike anything from Spirit Of Eden - similar, slow-burning vibe, awkwardly off-kilter percussive rhythms, layers of instrumental feedback complimenting one another - but if you listen to to both albums back-to-back, it certainly does. For a start, gone are the gentle, long and picturesque intros, at least from this number, as after a few moments of fuzz, Hollis' guitar kicks things into life. As soon as the lead vocal kicks in the colour this little picture in for us, it's basically a guitar-driven number in the main, and a very good one at that.

It's the perfect mood-setter, at least in the main, as it sets up the lo-fi shape that Laughing Stock takes on, and one that's significantly more lo-fi than it's predecessor. As Ascension Day kicks in though, we're given one of the much louder passages on an otherwise pretty quiet and contemplative album, as Harris' pounding drumbeat throws a lot of light on the sonic picture, before Hollis' guitar just jumps out at you from the silence. This sets up, as I said before, a surprisingly loud and punchy moment on an album such as this, as it shows the flipside of the coin regarding this new, guitar-led approach to post-rock very clearly.

That gives way to probably the only track on this album that sounds anything even remotely like an older Talk Talk number - After the Flood. This is basically a huge throwback to not only Spirit Of Eden but elements of the Colour Of Spring too. On the one hand, Friese-Greene's organ plays a huge part in this piece as does Harris' almost metronomic and fierce drumbeat - that is to say that each core band member here gets equal billing so to speak, and that it's no longer just the Mark Hollis Show. Also, buried beneath layers of noise, feedback and dark, introspective lyrics is something that actually resembles a traditional verse-chorus song structure. Basically, I was nuts about this song way back when I first got this album, and I still am now.

Enter side two via Taphead! From the noisy, even bombastic two tracks that came before it, we're thrown right back into lo-fi, Hollis-centric territory, with a very grim number using a loose riff from Hollis as a pulse, before the vocals and organ kinda rise from the ashes of the barrage of noise that came before to give this picture a bit more colour and shape. It's a pretty scary piece of music now that I think of it, and wouldn't go at all badly over one of the nervier, mind**** moments of a horror movie or something. As such, it builds into quite a climax too before it kinda slowly fades out again.

Out of the dark void that Taphead left behind comes New Grass, which sounds a lot brighter than any of its predecessors, and at least with regards to the musical backing it certainly sounds a lot like improvisational jazz - while Harris' drumbeat doesn't actually go many places, that's the kinda vibe I get off of it, and Hollis' disjointed guitar riffs certainly help that notion along. I guess you could call it a more reined-in form of jazz then, or at least a soundalike anyway.

And then there's Runeii, which serves as another lo-fi moment relying almost entirely on the mighty Hollis vocal/guitar combo. To pretentiously resort to metaphor here, if you can picture the album behind this track as being some sort of storm, one that's been through varying levels of intensity, Runeii gives off the image of looking back at the damage under a clear sky. I don't wanna go into too much detail, as that kinda takes the fun out of things. Just listen to it yourself I guess.

So, how about this album as a complete unit then? There really isn't a lot, if anything wrong with it. As a listening experience, it's pretty much seamlessly awesome. Even if a lot of post-rock bores the tits off you like it does with me, this is worth a go. This album made my top 5 albums of all time when I made that thread about a year and a half ago, and I still wouldn't see it budge from there. Truth is though that any three of this, Spirit Of Eden and the Colour Of Spring could take that spot as well. True, Webb's leaving this band leaves a fairly large bass guitar-shaped hole in this album, and it's a lot more lo-fi than its predecessors, but I'd still have this album over so many others any day. The only real drawback is that it was probably too good - soon after releasing this album, Talk Talk finally called it quits, as if the task of following up not only this album but the two that came before it was just too daunting.

Whatever the case, this is the last component of possibly the finest successive trio of albums there's ever been.

10/10



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Old 03-10-2011, 09:12 AM   #34 (permalink)
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The 84 and 88 albums are the most consistent I think.
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Old 03-10-2011, 09:21 AM   #35 (permalink)
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I only really like Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock

The Colour of Spring bores the heck out of me

and I don't like the early material much, except for Hollis' singing
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Old 03-10-2011, 09:52 AM   #36 (permalink)
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Colour of Spring bores me too, but their early material could be very good. It's My Life is probably their most acclaimed song.
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Old 03-11-2011, 01:09 AM   #37 (permalink)
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Colour of Spring bores me too, but their early material could be very good. It's My Life is probably their most acclaimed song.
preferred No Doubt's version
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Old 03-11-2011, 11:44 AM   #38 (permalink)
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Yet the Talk Talk version has that great voice you like. Also the No Doubt version is just another love song, the Talk Talk one as it's video shows (plus the use of animal sounds in the song) embraces environmental themes in addition.
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Old 03-11-2011, 07:48 PM   #39 (permalink)
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Yet the Talk Talk version has that great voice you like. Also the No Doubt version is just another love song, the Talk Talk one as it's video shows (plus the use of animal sounds in the song) embraces environmental themes in addition.
I find the backing band to Hollis very boring in their version. Generic synth-pop. No Doubt's has some nice guitars.....
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Old 03-12-2011, 05:59 AM   #40 (permalink)
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Listening to the No Doubt version again, her vocal is ok but I hear nothing special in the arrangement that makes it stand out much from the Talk Talk one. The Talk Talk one is much more elaborate, with the use of animal sounds for example. I'd say No Doubt are more generic and smoothed over, though her voice is a bit more passionate than I remembered.
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