Review Revue: Talk Talk – Laughing Stock

The creative arc of the band Talk Talk is a fascinating thing to behold. While the band is known to most of the world for their synth-pop 1984 hit “It’s My Life,” and considered pretty much a one-hit wonder, if considered at all, their last two albums — Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock, created in 1988 and 1991 – are another beast altogether: sprawling, expansive, acoustic, experimental, filled with drone and roomsound and darkness. Over the past couple decades, these albums have gone on to create a sort of sub-career of their own, passed around through word of mouth and padding the collections of all the most discerning music nerds. (I credit my exposure to these great works to hanging out with the guys in the brilliant and sadly defunct local band Juno in the fall of 2001. They were very open with their admiration of these records and the inspiration they found there.) It’s a bit reminiscent of the career arcs of former one-hit-wonders/now indie darlings Nada Surf or Harvey Danger, but to a power of ten. Nada Surf and Harvey Danger’s later output is/was still pop music, if the sort that appeals to a smaller subset of the population. Talk Talk threw any and all pop conventions out the window and gave light to the strange sounds in their heads, to gorgeous effect.

I would be remiss if I neglected to mention the output of the members after Talk Talk disbanded: Singer Mark Hollis’s solo work, as well as the band .O.Rang, started by members Paul Webb and Lee Harris, will not disappoint fans of late period Talk Talk.

It’s gratifying to see the KCMU folks recognizing the genius on these albums right out of the gate. Here they are in 1991, singing the praises of Talk Talk’s swan song:

“This is real similar to their last release. Dark, gloomy, ambiatic [sic] music, but done very well. Very enjoyable! Mark Hollis’s voice sounds haunting and crisp, production is great. A lot of instruments. Long songs. M is recommended.”

“These guys are so underrated, it isn’t EVEN funny. Mark Hollis has one of the most unique and beautiful male voices I’ve ever heard. The music is moody, sparse and slightly jazzy. And, if you can’t tell, they have THE best art work in the music industry. I love this album! I think other people will too. So I recommend H without hesitation. So, the songs are long. You can fade them out. But you won’t want to.”

“Hey, I like ALL Talk Talk’s stuff and I’m damn proud.”

“I haven’t heard or listened to these guys since KYYX. A change for the better needless to say. A well deserved H.”

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  1. Damon Creed
    Posted July 13, 2011 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

    Paul Webb of Talk Talk also nicely collaborated with Portishead’s Beth Gibbons on her solo release, “Out of Season.”

  2. Barry Roark
    Posted March 31, 2014 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Hey Levi and KEXP, thanks for posting this review which included the original sticker reviews on the front of the cd. That first review by BR posted on the front of the CD pictured above is no other than myself. I was at home creating a motif of art work album covers by Talk Talk to put up on my wall (because, yeah, I agree, they do have some of the best art work on their album covers), and I stumbled on to this blog by sheer accident. I had no idea that I was reading my own review, until I saw the initials at the bottom, and I was like, wtf, that’s my handwriting. How did that get on their, I have never scanned my writing ever. Then my friend pointed out it was KEXP, and then I figured it out, oh KCMU, right on. So, I just thought I would share that little chance discovery, it made my day. And, oh, by the way, Laughing Stock went into heavy rotation, as it should have. Cheers.

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