- Audio CD (October 25, 1990)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Label: Warner Bros.
- ASIN: B000002KNM
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #264,369 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
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Big Science prompted trendy early-'80s art students to plug in their synthesizers and start their own postpunk performance-art-cum-rock-&-roll projects. The album actually produced a hit single in the form of "O Superman." That track and "Let X=X" are the two best-known things from this album, which is a condensation of United States, Anderson's four-and-a-half-hour performance-art piece. The entire show is available as United States Live, a four-disc box set. Big Science, however, presents the cream of the crop. Although a lot of Anderson's shrill non sequiturs seemed annoying at the time of her breakthrough, she predicted techno music years before it happened. Still, as rock critic J.D. Considine pointed out, her creations are often closer to theater than to music. --Bill Holdship
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Top Customer Reviews
While Laurie's tactic may irk some - her soothing voice, her odd narratives- I think her lasting vision is that she was painting a picture of a false sense of comfort, the world of gated communities and unnerring belief in salvation by technology and of its ensuing alienation and problematic nature. And was she not right? We fight wars remotely, we shop remotely, we 'friend' remotely. Some people even have to make rules about using the iPhone at the dinner table. We now have an electronic intermediary in almost everything we do, and while there are great advantages, we can be spied upon very easily and our private information is farmed out without our knowledge. (In the cyberworld, we don't really own who we allegedly are; employers can hire and fire you based on a Facebook posting. Back in the Pomo 80s, we would've called this "The Disembodied Self". We now live this way as a rule.)
And many kept expecting Web 2.0 to fix our troubled global economy. There are some great advantages of technology- Laurie integrates it into her art, for example, but there are human elements that are transformed, for better or worse. If you think "O Superman" or "Big Science" are just twee artiness, that it's not 'punk enough' for you, listen again. You don't have to scream and thrash to have a powerful message or insight. Laurie does not hit you over the head with a message like a hardcore song, she sings you an artificially soothing lullabye and insinuates herself in a subtle way, in the way that prefab culture and tech have a way of doing without you noticing it.
She revisited these themes in the show "The End of the Moon", which I really wish she would release on CD. It was done while she was an artist in residence at NASA, and it was a response to 9/11 and spoke much about a false sense of security. It also had much of her mournful violin, which I love.
Back to the album here...mournful violin again features prominently on the very moving track "Born, Never Asked". I cannot tell you how much I love this track. I think even more than "O Superman".
There are a few quirky tracks on here that I can take or leave, like "Sweaters". They were innovative for the time, but now are more period pieces of the 80's.
This is still a landmark album and for those who say the vocoder is dated, you have not listened to much experimental electronic music lately- it's back, baby! I also think it's part of her aesthetic to create a non-human, godlike technological presence to anthropormorphize the one that permeates our lives and that we offer unconditional faith and deference to. (Look at the cultlike status of Jobs, for example. It was like MLK died or something...)
But I ramble...at the very least, download "O Superman" and "Born Never Asked".
Now, if you have no idea who Laurie Anderson is, you're missing out, and this is the place to start, for reasons noted above. This was the one that put her on the mainstream radar, and elevated her from arthouse/college circuit cult figure to 80s phenom, oh however briefly. All I can really say is this: if you like your music to make you think while still making you dance; if you like compelling stories that draw you in and then pull a switch; if you're looking to discover a "classic" that will still blow your mind today... check this one out. And then, go check out the rest of Ms. Anderson's ouevre. She never disappoints and she's still at it today. Find out where it started, and you'll become a fan, too.
Others to check out: The Ugly One with the Jewels and Other Stories,Bright Red and Home Of The Brave: A Film By Laurie Anderson (1986 Film).