It’s Been 20 Years? The Best of 1991 Revisited: Talk Talk’s Laughing Stock

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From KCRW DJ Chuck P:

Talk Talk were one of the many hotly tipped New Romantic bands of the early 80s, along with Duran Duran (who they opened for on their ’82 tour), A Flock Of Seagulls, OMD and so many more. They had a knack for writing keyboard infused pop nuggets with denser lyrics than most of
their contemporaries.

I was a huge fan when the songs “Talk Talk” and “It’s My Life” came to the US, but my focus shifted elsewhere by the time their 4th album, “Spirit Of Eden“, came out in 1988. It was so different than anything they’d released before it, I’m not sure I would have liked it at the time. Pastoral and progressive, it barely held together any form of pop songwriting, and the lack of singles from the album demonstrated that. They got into quite a tussle with their label, EMI, who finally dropped them and even sued because they said that the album was intentionally anti commercial.

Polydor picked them up for their last album, “Laughing Stock“, in 1991. It is said that producer and multi instrumentalist, Tim Friese-Green, was the motivation towards avoiding the typical sound of new wave in favor of richer textures and acoustic instruments. The change became noticeable when they released The Colour Of Spring in 1986. Bass player Paul Webb left just prior to Laughing Stock and it was recorded mostly with guest musicians.

Defying convention, ambience took center stage and some parts pass by in near silence. The first track doesn’t even begin until you’re 20 seconds into it. It’s spacious and lengthy songs are given time to breathe and evolve with a slow burn that’s intense in a very subdued way. There are cacophonous passages as well, with one ending abruptly like lifting the needle off a record. Throughout the album, the seemingly meandering sounds suddenly come together the way the hour, minute and second hands of a clock announce a new hour.

“Laughing Stock is also considered a signpost of the mid-90s post rock movement to come.

When speaking with artists who are described as such, this album – and This Heat’s “Deceit-are the two most cited albums of influence.

One listen to Gastr Del Sol and you can hear it. Perhaps it won’t be one of the better known albums in this series of 1991 Revisited, but it will remain one of my favorites, and for those who enjoy an adventurous listen, may become a favorite of yours as well.

Chuck P.