Talk Talk
Laughing Stock


5.0
classic

Review

by Winesburgohio USER (7 Reviews)
April 28th, 2013 | 48 replies


Release Date: 1991 | Tracklist

Review Summary: THIS IS NOT A REVIEW

It’s interesting, I think, the way Laughing Stock is commonly analysed today. To clarify: there is a tendency amongst reviewers and internet commentators to contextualize it in terms of its relationship with Spirit of Eden, its forebear. Thus ‘truths’ are prescribed to it strictly according to its contiguity with SoE. Are you with me?

For whatever reason, I’m not fond of treating SoE and Laughing Stock as contiguous entities, although I acknowledge that it makes sense to do so, in the same way it that makes sense to categorize The Nationals ‘Alligator’, ‘Boxer, ‘High Violet’ into a neat little inter-related, inter-referential timeline. I’ll even concede that it’s necessary for discourse to frame it in such a light; to do so is to strive to demystify two perplexing albums, neither of which have concrete precedent – or, for that matter, antecedent (the odd Bark Psychosis and Zelienople nod aside). However; I’ve never understood why it falls to SoE to be Laughing Stock’s fraternal partner when Mark Hollis’ self-titled is in many ways closer to it in ethos and spirituality. Nor why Laughing Stock is considered a ‘successor’, of sorts, to Spirit of Eden, when in actuality a better argument could be made that Spirit of Eden is a sequel to the devastatingly good, chronically ignored ‘Colour of Spring’. Actually scratch that; why pair them up at all? To reduce discussion surrounding Talk Talk to two albums in lieu of a more holistic (or HOLLIStic, if you will) approach seems reductive, surely?

My reservations about the contiguous analysis aside though, it IS worth exploring how the discourse frames and distinguishes the two album from another. A common treatment is to consider Laughing Stock a Spirit of Eden put up against a dark mirror; one commentator compares a perfect child to his brother who gets kicked out of school for playing truant. Certainly, it’s not unusual to see SoE described as ‘redemptive’, or ‘triumphant’, or what-have-you – while Laughing Stock is pigeon-holed into categories that denote and connote ‘crisis’, ‘yearning’, ‘lost’, ‘brooding’, ‘loss’.

This is no doubt the upshot of a palpable degree of inter-flexibility between the albums (just for fun, I advise meddling with your itunes by putting ‘The Rainbow’ in between ‘Ascension Day’ and ‘After the Flood’ sometime. It’s definitely an elucidatory bridge between the two, right?!), but for the life of me I think these comments have it all wrong, irrevocably topsy-turvy. There’s no doubt that Laughing Stock has emotional heft, part of which includes bleak and despondent passages completely unlike the types of which you’d find on SoE. Witness, to this end, that haunting violin lick that closes out ‘Myrrhman’, or the brooding cacophony of ‘Taphead’. But ultimately even these aren’t free of light, but majestic and exquisite, entirely necessary wrong-turns that prove advantageous in the greater scheme of things. ‘Spirit’, to me, is the yearning and unsure album, the confused period. Think of ‘The Rainbow’ in terms of ‘After the Flood’. The latter is more resonant, triumphant, surely, than the formers faltering beginning, unresolved bridges? Consider ‘Inheritance’s brooding refrain ‘when it gets my heart out’, with the lyrics ‘how we learnt to linger on / Head in Sand / Expecting the Dour’. If that doesn’t connote hopelessness and befuddlement then what does? Fittingly Spirit ends inconclusively, with a peeping organ line that fades out hesitantly.

Now Laughing Stock is no antithesis to this, but a chart of progress. Where Wealth implores ‘create a home within my head’ New Grass offers the resolution and comfort that ‘they’ll come / they’ll come’. Then there is the swansong, Runeii, which ends on as definitive a concluding note as you’re likely to hear. As the gorgeous, heart-melting piano resolves and fades away, the element of finality is perceptible enough as to be a roar. It’s soothing, it’s majestic, it’s sublime, it’s exquisite, and these are accentuated by the dips of ‘Myrrhman’ and ‘Taphead’. It’s a cohesive album that may or may not have found what it was looking for, exactly, but feels confident enough that it hardly matters. In this context envisage ‘Mark Hollis’ as an equivalent of those ‘where are they now?’ reality show specials; much the same, just as joyous. Continuing this metaphor; if Talk Talk’s career is a television show, Laughing Stock functions as its climax. It is the most important stage in a beings life. It is Benjamin’s punctuating moment of truth, it is art as revelation, as spiritualism. It is fleeting repose amongst the ashes, ashes, ashes, dust, dust, dust.

I realize how mystical this sounds, and I don’t want to leave you wanting so before I dash I’ll address the question of what, exactly, Hollis and co. are ‘yearning’ for on Spirit and ‘actualizing’ on Laughing Stock. The answer is; what’s in that magic box on LOST? Is it something you desire, fear, loathe, are wary of? Is the angst spiritual, existential, political, teenage, transition-oriented? Hell – that part’s up to you. Interpretation, to mis-entitle the song is what you make it.
Disclaimer: the previous paragraphs of errant intellectualization are redundant. If there’s ever an album that’s meant to be FELT, it’s this one.



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user ratings (669)
Chart.
4.4
superb
other reviews of this album
FelixCulpa (5)
You better start laughing now....

Sam Feldman's Rating (5)
The only thing left to do is marvel. And marvel I shall....

Tyler Fisher EMERITUS (5)
Like I could summarize my feelings for this album in this little box....

biografiend (5)
...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Winesburgohio
April 28th 2013


1041 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

And once more, with feeling: THIS IS NOT A REVIEW. Basically a collection of ruminations/ one interpretation of the album that i wanted to delve into and turned out waaaay too big for the comment section. Experimental :O

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CK
April 28th 2013


4930 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

"THIS IS NOT A REVIEW"

Don't care as long as it's a 5

Digging: Death - Human

DrHouseSchuldiner
April 28th 2013


5643 Comments


Pos'd...this album is like the best thing i've ever heard ...damn i need to jam it tonight!

CK
April 28th 2013


4930 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Or now

DrHouseSchuldiner
April 28th 2013


5643 Comments


Haha u got a point here : )

lazorblade
April 28th 2013


25 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Not a review at all, agreed. More like a collection of thoughts and experiences on/with this truly masterful record. Very well written and an interesting read overall.
I think that everyone who enjoys this record with the intensity it deserves at some points wonders about the stuff you did. Like "How the friggin' hell did they get from 'Such A Shame' to 'After The Flood' in a mere seven years?!" Makes me wonder big time.
Are you having any greater thoughts on Hollis' selftitled debut too?

Ire
April 28th 2013


41803 Comments


nice review ethixx

Havey
April 28th 2013


9701 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

spirit of eden is better :D

edit: shut the fuck up april 2013 havey

Ire
April 28th 2013


41803 Comments


yeh

KILL
April 28th 2013


71962 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

THIS IS NOT A REVIEW

neg

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HolidayKirk
Contributing Reviewer
April 28th 2013


1638 Comments


Had this album for years, it pushes me away errytime

TheNexus100
April 28th 2013


2542 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

spirit of eden is way better

Digging: Nothing - Guilty of Everything

Lakes.
April 28th 2013


28434 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

incorrect

Digging: Scott Walker and Sunn O))) - Soused

KILL
April 28th 2013


71962 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

progmaster has spoken

ethixx
April 28th 2013


1170 Comments


lol ire

ethixx
April 28th 2013


1170 Comments


damn this review is crazy wtf lol

solongatlast
April 28th 2013


201 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Haven't heard Spirit of Eden so I don't get it, but it's well written.

pos

Digging: Thom Yorke - Tomorrow's Modern Boxes

Winesburgohio
April 28th 2013


1041 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

@Lazor: precisely! it's a bit of an enigma this'un, i have so much i could say about it. And yeah i'd like to delve into Mark Hollis sometime

@Havey: m8 u r a laugh and a half

@solongatlast: Thankee, niiiiiice dig btw ;)



solongatlast
April 28th 2013


201 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Oh man, you need to check out his self-titled. I personally like it a lot more than this even though they're both totally 5s.

Winesburgohio
April 28th 2013


1041 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Oh no, i've heard it (and i'm besotted with it) - i just meant i'd quite like to give it a review/some analysis some time.

Interesting that you prefer it, wouldn't mind reading your interpretation



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