Amazing 1991 swansong. Universal.
Dreamy and loose, Talk Talk's Laughing Stock
turns 180 degrees away from the '80s pop sound of It's My Life
and runs headlong into a web of Brian Eno, avant-garde, jazz, and experimental structure. The songs ache with languid phrases and the naked, vulnerable voice of Mark Hollis, the only element of the band that remains perceptible from their verse-chorus-verse past. The bashing, off-time clatter of "Ascension Day"; the impossibly patient organ motif snaking into a wailing guitar string in "After the Flood"; the terrifying, beautiful silences that engulf "Runeii" and "Myrrhman"; and the teetering, defenseless vocal Hollis lays down on "New Grass"--it all adds up to a stellar, shockingly original work that shreds all pretense of genre limitations, finding a transcendence in the light and shadow of musical color. --Matthew Cooke