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Laurie Anderson - Big Science Review

by Dan MacIntosh

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The single, "O Superman (for Massenet)", is one annoying track. I'm sure it has prejudiced me against Laurie Anderson for a long time. It is repetitious in the worst possible way, with tortuous, breathy vocals. Nevertheless, just don't let that song - assuming it annoys you also - prejudice you against Anderson's just-re-released Big Science album.

Anderson is an avant-garde musician - with violin her instrument of choice -- as well as an engaging storyteller. And it is her storytelling skill that makes this 1981 album sound so great -- all these years later. If you're not laughing out loud while Anderson makes her pilot character play Mother May I during "From the Air", you clearly need to get your sense of humor checked. I can easily see this song idea working in one of those old Airplane movies from the '70s.

But along with Anderson's great monologues, there is also plenty of auditory weirdness. For instance, if "O Superman (for Massenet)" doesn't throw you off the edge, perhaps the bagpipes-meets-the-music-of-India "Sweaters" will. While "For the Air" is filled out with a wall of saxophones, most tracks -- like "Born, Never Asked" -- are relatively minimal. The latter track skips along over clicking percussion and mournful violin.

In addition to Anderson's dry sense of humor, Big Science also showcases this woman's natural curiosity. You can just picture her chin-scratching wonderment as she considers the way humans are falling and walking "at the same time" whenever exhibiting natural pedestrian tendencies. It is a keen observation, indeed.

If you're still holding a grudge against Laurie Anderson for "O Superman (for Massenet)", now's the time to give it up. Just remember, when you hold grudges you're only hurting yourself.


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Laurie Anderson - Big Science
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