Laurie Anderson - Talk Normal (The Laurie Anderson Anthology)

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Talk Normal - Laurie Anderson I always struggle to describe Laurie Anderson's music to other people. She plays rather avant-garde music, which is part performance art and part story-telling. She has always used electronic instruments extensively (including some of her own making), and many of her songs involve her deepening the pitch of her voice dramatically to form what she calls 'the voice of authority'. If that description has convinced you that you would hate this album, then I can only say that I've just proved my own point: you really need to listen to her music rather relying on my feeble descriptions.

My own first introduction to Laurie Anderson (and her only chart hit in the UK) was the first track on this album--'O Superman'. I hated it with a passion. In my defence, I was in my early teens, and mainly listening to Michael Jackson at the time, so it was perhaps not surprising that I just didn't get it. It also sounds horrible on a tinny radio--you really need to hear it in a quiet environment, and on a decent stereo to pick up all the subtleties. I've been lucky enough to see her perform live a few times, and on the last occasion (a few months after 9/11), she performed 'O Superman'. It blew me away. It has always been quite a moving and disturbing song--with an atmosphere of loss, alienation and fear--but it has gained whole new layers of associations.

Anderson has a wonderful speaking voice (on many of the tracks, she speaks rather than singing) and she has such a great sense of timing that she could be a comedian. Indeed, many of the tracks are really funny, like these on 'Talk Normal':

I don't know about your brain- but mine is really bossy I come home from a day on the golf course and I find all these messages scribbled on wrinkled up scraps of paper And they say thing like: Why don't you get a real job? Or: You and what army? Or: Get a horse.

If you haven't listened to Laurie Anderson before, this album would make a great introduction to her work. It really bears repeated listening--you hear all kinds of things that you didn't hear the first time--and you'll end up hanging on her every word.

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