on 15 August 2015
Yet another truly magnificent musical masterpiece, particularly on vinyl and is closely beaten into third place in my list of favourite albums of all time by the preceding two from Talk Talk. Though, in my opinion, all three are best played in order of composition over one listening session, which is why, nowadays, I wait until I have a clear late evening, without distraction or fear of interruption and dedicate the time to just playing these three albums and as the music progresses becomes an intensely emotional and spiritual experience, often moving me to tears, especially since losing my gorgeous darling wife, Caroline, to cancer in May 2011, just two months after being diagnosed, then I go to bed because it is impossible to follow such an 'event' with anything else which is anywhere near as meaningful. Just as Caroline has always been and will always remain the total and absolute light and love of my life, these three 'movements' of one complete masterpiece will always remain the musical light and love of my life.
Please note that I have only rated the individual albums (ie. first, second and third favourite of all time) when they are viewed in isolation but taken as a whole, all three become equal first in my affections.
And finally, a very personal thankyou to the lads of Talk Talk and their talents for their very existence.
on 24 April 2010
This was Talk Talk's last album, released in 1991. It continues in the neo-classical direction signposted by 1988's Spirit of Eden and takes it even further, possibly to the point of no return. There were rumours of Hollis recording a string section for hours upon end, before only using a few misplaced notes. Not sure if it's true but it paints a picture of a highly unconventional album.
The cover illustration features a striking image of oversized colourful birds on a leafless tree, and there only six tracks on the album, all of which are quite lengthy in duration. The album opens with faint static, before a gingerly strummed electric guitar enters, followed by cello, viola and piano. The song is Myrrhman, and Mark Hollis' voice has never sounded so tortured and desolate yet almost hymnal, with lyrics like `faith one path and the second in fear', whilst being punctuated by bursts of static, and faint trumpets and horns. It's far away from popular music, and the track ends with gentle strings and piano.
The pace picks up with Ascension Day, which features prominent percussion and again a somewhat hesitant guitar before the drums crash in, and it continues for six minutes before ending abruptly. After the Flood drifts in on barely audible piano and organ in a similar vein to the previous track, before a change in pace with Taphead, which is very sparse, Hollis' vocals more delicate than ever before. It's a very tense track, with a middle portion which builds up to a horn led climax, before tailing off with some echoey guitar, bass and organ.
New Grass, the penultimate track is almost like the first shoots of spring after four tracks of winter. An intricate, almost liquid guitar enters accompanied by drums and gentle piano, and Hollis sings `lifted up, reflected in returning love you sing'. The album is a semi-religious experience, never more so than on this track, with its references to `seven sacraments to song versed in Christ' and later `someday Christendom will come', along with beautiful unadorned piano interludes. Not a note is wasted on this one.
The album finishes on a very downbeat note with Runeii, which another very sparse track, gentle ratcheting guitar playing a melody that could almost be random notes, except it resolves itself into a recognisable pattern.
The album sold poorly, and there was silence from Hollis until his self-titled solo album in 1998, after which he has appeared to have retired from music. It's very difficult to write about this somewhat forbidding, almost miserable, yet rewarding album, it almost stands apart in a genre of its own. Despite being in places a fairly sparse album, the music is highly textured and there are layers which have taken me years to discover. If anything, it's close to classical music, perhaps Arvo Part, but that only tells part of the story.
on 22 June 2005
As a teenager I could not appreciate it's delicacy, gripped as I was in the height of Industrial and Grunge. And thus like so many others, I was slightly disappointed when I first bought this over 10 years ago when I (re)discovered Talk Talk (who doesn't love "It's My Life", that being the original and not that supremely redundent No Doubt cover version) and grabbed all the albums.
However, there was something about it, even then, that niggled at me. What was it? Maybe it was some sneaking suspicion that this is possibly one of the best pieces of musical art ever released on a CD. Maybe I hadn't quite grown up enough to appreciate it, but knew that some day it would touch me in a way very little other music does.
Coupled with it's earlier sibling "Spirit Of Eden", they gainfully mix longing, hope and sorrow. The pair shake off everything insepid and bland, release all pop roots and go for something new - and not by the throat, it's an almost resigned sigh, but there is always some last glimmer of hope.
Nearly 15 years later, this album proves it's timeless nature. If you're looking for a listening experience for your soul, I can recommend very few other albums besides this.
And at the price the sellers on here are offering it at it's a crime not to take a risk.
on 5 January 2013
Anyone who knows Talk talk wont need a review of this album.
Its more experimental and ambient than their early stuff, but none the worse for it.
I bought this to replace my sorn out old copy.
Sadly, it sounds like they used my worn out copy as the master.
The pressing quality, released under the Verve label is terrble
Yes, decent weight vinyl but pops , jumps and noise.
Save your money, buy the CD
on 18 April 2001
The final Talk Talk album, 'Laughing Stock' shows the other side of their experimental coin. In this slightly more bluesy down to earth record, Hollis has crafted six minimal yet tuneful pieces that relax and uplift the listener. 'Laughing Stock' leaves behind the big budget sound of 'Spirit of Eden' in this fantastic farewell.
on 7 November 2001
Just to add my tu'penny to what the others have said here. Talk Talk are one of the very finest bands ever to have recorded: even their earlier electro-synth-pop stuff is often much more inventive and interesting and lovely than its peers; but from The Colour of Spring onwards they really did move into another gear. Spirit of Eden is the rootsier, bluesier of the two final, great albums; Laughing Stock is, if anything, prettier and more accessible, though it is less conventional (!) and more eclectic. It has a folky, Celtic-y tinge to it, though for God's sake don't let that put you off - since that's not my cup of tea either ('course, if it is, you'll be in clover) - but there is just enough to evoke, wonderfully, night and water and trees, and all the -best- aspects of that sort of thing. But, like all good albums, it sounds a mess at first: and it is that mess that you will discover is actually a complexity, a complexity that means you will take forever to discover its every little perfection; every sudden surprising melodic flourish; every obscure symmetry. Your intellect will appreciate its sheer boldness and effrontery, your heart will fall in love with its beauty, and your soul will travel with it into a stunningly delineated soundscape of sadness and joy; of despair and of hope.
on 10 March 2003
Laughing Stock is without doubt, Talk Talk's seminal piece; their finest hour. I know of no other piece of music so rich in texture. It's landscape.
Think of your favorite view, no matter how many times you look at it, you will always see new things. It changes, the seasons come and go.
It might appear disjointed and hard work at first. When I first bought it many years ago, I was truly dissapointed. But that's because I'd never heard anything like it; my brain couldn't file it in a comfertable box. But I stuck with it and it wasn't long before I realised this was something speacial.
From the futillity of the human condition to the joy of life - it'll take you there (and bring you back again)It's all there - check it out
on 2 February 2016
Trying to describe Laughing Stock is an incredibly difficult task. It truly is an album that exists in its own time and space, sounding like nothing that came before it and nothing that came after it. It is partly that timeless nature that makes the album such a wonder. There are clearly elements of Jazz, Ambience and Rock present but all in a way that has never been heard before. The recording sessions are now the stuff of music legend and band leader Mark Hollis' perfectionist tendencies are well-known, but Hollis himself is the other reason the album succeeds to the level it does. His voice is very unique and the stark way it is used here (almost as an instrument itself) adds weight when it appears. But adding to its nature what makes the album so effective is that it strikes the right balance of soulful, challenging, melodic and atmospheric.
'Myrrhman' is simply a glorious opening, and is one of my favourite track of all time. It somehow sounds meticulously planned and wildly experimental. Guitar chords echo, drums are occasionally tapped in the background and brass instruments drift in-and-out. The string section that takes up the last 2 minutes of the song is simply breath-taking and never fails to take me somewhere far away. 'Ascension Day' is the closest thing to rock here. Built around a grooving drum pattern and aggressive guitars, it always threatens to explode and when it does it is a magnificent wash of noise. 'After the Flood' is an amazing centre-piece at once both intense and glorious, continuously building and with bursts of life thanks to Hollis' passionate vocals. In fact throughout the album Hollis' vocals retain the same immense magnitude whether they soar or are whispered. His lyrics are excellent too, somewhat spiritual which fits the songs perfectly but just vague enough to allow a number of interpretations.
Another thing that always really strikes me about the album is how it manages to be both intensely claustrophobic and stunningly beautiful. Never is this more clear than with 'Taphead' thanks to its distant, eerie guitar strum and Hollis' stumbling vocals which then segues into 'New Grass' which is so overwhelmingly serene its impossible not to float away on the delicate riffs and vocals filled with hope. 'Runeii' ends the album on a quiet note. Long periods of silence are broken by a flowing riff and subdued vocals, making it a downbeat and very fitting finale. The wonderful instrumentation and mesmerising compositions will always allow the album to be timeless, it would be just as easy to believe that it was recorded 20 years ago as it would be to believe that it was recorded 20 years from this point. Which of course fits what I mean when I state that it exists in its own world.
Since its release Laughing Stock, as well as its predecessor Spirit of Eden, has became iconic thanks to its influence on what has come after it. No-one has ever recreated the sound captured by the band during their later period and I doubt anyone will ever be able too. These 6 tracks are a journey, they all have a unique approach or sound yet they also sound like pieces of the same puzzle. Talk Talk's disbanding was very sad for music and it was especially hard to lose such a talent as Mark Hollis, but this is an incredible way to bow out and in a way is the perfect album to depart with.
on 27 August 2011
OK, 'Laughing Stock' was released in 91, but you know what I mean! If you like 'Spirit of Eden' you must get this - they make a real pair. This album also sits alongside Sylvian classics such as 'Dead Bees', and if you're into the best of what the 80's had to offer in terms of thinking man's rock then this is a must. The album still sounds refreshing in its pallette both in texture and composition, partly due to the masterful use of acoustic instruments (wind and string). I would therefore also heartliy reccomend this to fans of more contempory experimental britrock e.g. Radiohead ect. Although it is quite easy to get into, it has the depth and conviction to make it onto your 'soundtrack of my life' shelf. Just buy it!
on 14 April 2002
But don't wait too long, as you'll probably die before the penny drops and you finally appreciate it's amazing depths. 'Laughing Stock' is a modern musical composition which challenges the way music is written today (or even 10 years ago). It will take months to 'hear', years to 'listen to' and decades to really 'understand'. Once you've got there however, this music will be a partner for life. This is by far and away the best moneyI've ever spent on a CD, even if it was 10 years ago.