Review Revue: Laurie Anderson - Mister Heartbreak

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by DJ El Toro

The original idea for this week’s Review Revue was to hold the magnifying glass up to Laurie Anderson‘s 1982 debut, Big Science, since it just celebrated its 25th anniversary a few months back. Alas, the comment stickers on that LP were uniformly enthusiastic and littered with exclamation points. It felt a bit like spying on a cheerleading camp. But its 1984 follow-up, Mister Heartbreak, met with a more mixed reaction from our KCMU ancestors. Initial praises quickly gave way to a heated exchange about the album’s all-star talent line-up.

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“Laurie is vastly overrated, however Peter Gabriel, Adrian Belew & Nile Rogers [sic] are excellent musicians & creative artists – she did well to use their talents.”

“I beg to differ. Laurie is a spectacular live performer. Perhaps her live show doesn’t translate well on to vynil [sic], but she is a very talented artist. Why do you think Peter, Adrian & Nile want to play on her albums? Because she is hot!”

“I must agree… vastly overrated. C’mon, Nile worked with Duran Duran, too... it’s all in the $$”

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At this point, I feel compelled to interject. In 1984, Nile Rodgers’ association with Duran Duran was minor; he had produced one single, “Wild Boys.” On the other hand, he played a pivotal role in helping David Bowie craft his most commercially viable LP since Ziggy Stardust, the 1983 hit Let’s Dance, and lent Madonna some much-needed credibility by working on Like A Virgin. His work broke down the artificial distinctions between club and rock music that the disco/punk schism had created. Respect is due!

“Bill Laswell’s old stuff is better than the lot of this. See: Material”

True, Laswell did amazing things with Material. But they were also responsible for one of the weakest records of Nona Hendryx’s career, 1984′s slick The Art of Defense. Hell, if we’re going to pick on people for the company they keep, let’s not forget that Whitney Houston had sung on a Material album, One Down, in 1982. (And don’t even get me started on what happened when Laswell paired up with Swans in 1989.) Nobody’s perfect, guys.

What really amuses me is that nobody goes after the truly odd guest star on Mister Heartbreak. No, not William S. Burroughs; Phoebe Snow. What the heck was the ’70s singer-songwriter responsible for the Adult Contemporary chestnut “Poetry Man” doing on the same LP as the crackpot who wrote Naked Lunch?

“Somebody out to frame this album cover.”

“Hey, let’s right [sic] a book.”

“Next!... KCMU: Album Cover History!”

Well, nobody got a publishing deal out of it, but here’s that hinted-at moment of immortality kids. Bravo!

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2 Comments

  1. Kat Metrovich
    Posted January 20, 2008 at 2:33 am | Permalink

    One of my fave activities at kexp are reading the comment labels on my fave vinyl and cd’s. Of course the vinyl ones are older and have more comments, so it was a surprise to see it on the website.

  2. Posted January 23, 2008 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    Oh dear, what have I done? I seem to have invited an actual writer to sit in for me while away on vacation. Here’s hoping our readers will be able to deal when I wrench this thing back into the realm of rank amateurism this week.

    Thanks so much for doing these, Kurt - they’re really great.

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