Big Science: A Review
BIG SCIENCE BY LAURIE ANDERSON
Warner Bros. 3674-2
Three years ago, I caught the tiniest sliver of “O Superman” and was instantly mesmerized. The steady honk-honk-honk introducing it laid a very plain foundation, upon which an exquisite structure would be built… and then the sliver ended under a voice-over with Suzanne Vega. Nothing against Ms. Vega, but I wanted more.
Well, I got my “more” last weekend. I got this thing that was meta-avante-garde, if there can be such a thing. You see, Laurie Anderson wants to create an impression. She doesn’t throw out the rules of music. She takes them to a new level, with a healthy dose of irony (not the wimpy post-modern stuff—yes, I get it), social commentary, and cerebral engagement. She wants her audience to be angry (“From the Air”), worried (“Let X=X”), tender (“O Superman”), dismissive (“Sweaters”), and just plain scratching their heads (“Example #22”). In short, this isn’t something a typical stoner would listen to while lighting up.
Not to be missed are Ms. Anderson’s innovative instrument mods. For example, she replaced the horse-hair on a violin bow with magnetic tape, then mounted a recording head into the violin as an electronic pick-up. Every track demonstrates this ingenuity for those interested. Yes, I like this album. In a time when ABBA was breaking up, social commentary had to be political, and subtlety was hibernating, she refused to spoon-feed her audience. This commitment to communication—her craft—has kept her work as fresh and relevant now as it was in 1982. Her more-popular peers became passés, but Big Science could have been released yesterday. My rating: Supreme!