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Talk Talk Laughing Stock album cover
3.98 | 340 ratings | 30 reviews | 42% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1991

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Myrrhman (5:33)
2. Ascension Day (6:00)
3. After the Flood (9:39)
4. Taphead (7:30)
5. New Grass (9:40)
6. Runeii (4:58)

Total Time: 43:20

Line-up / Musicians

- Mark Hollis / organ, guitar, piano, Variophon synth, vocals
- Lee Harris / drums

- Tim Friese-Greene / organ, piano, harmonium, producer
- Simon Edwards / acoustic bass
- Ernest Mothle / acoustic bass
- Martin Ditcham / percussion
- Henry Lowther / trumpet, flugelhorn
- Dave White / clarinet, contrabass
- Mark Feltham / harmonica
- Wilfred Gibson / viola
- Jack Glickman / viola
- Garfield Jackson / viola
- Levine Andrade / viola
- George Robertson / viola
- Stephen Tees / viola
- Gavyn Wright / viola
- Paul Kegg / cello
- Roger Smith / cello

Releases information

ArtWork: James Marsh

LP Verve Records ‎- 847 717-1 (1991, Europe)

CD Polydor ‎- 847 717-2 (1991, US) Tracks 3 & 4 with full duration (as in Tracks List above)
CD Verve Records ‎- 847 717-2 (1991, Europe) Tracks 3 & 4 with shortened length (30' in total)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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Buy TALK TALK Laughing Stock Music

TALK TALK Laughing Stock ratings distribution

(340 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(42%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(36%)
Good, but non-essential (15%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

TALK TALK Laughing Stock reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
3 stars While waiting for the Spirit of Eden album to come back to the library , I rented this one and I can start to understand why this album has something linked to this site. I had the same reaction to The Church than this band saying at first that they did not belong here , but I went ahead and re-listened them ( As well as It Bites ). I was definitely not impressed by the Church ( and did not change my mind on It Bites ) and still think that they do not belong , but this album is somehow different . talk talk always made moody pop tunes with a certain "Joyfull Sadness" sound that only them could make and this album is no exception: unmistakably Talk Talk. But something changed here and the preceding one ( I am trusting my fellow reviewers here) and The music is much more acoustic than before , takes its time to develop and has a real athmosphere and might even have a concept behind it . I will re-listen again this week but the chance that this enters my top 500 is very thin , but it did break into my top 1000, although as Maani poited out in the forum , one should be very careful upon our feelings about an album just after its discovery - I think that a newly acquired album should never be rated higher than 4 stars and maybe moved up (or down ) after one year or so. hence this 3 star rating.
Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Not as easy to digest as Spirit Of eden but still a truly great work from Talk Talk. The eccentricities were more apparent from Mark Hollis and Tim Friese-Green but they still managed this last studio work before dissolving into the ether. It is very similar to it's predecessor but almost inverted in it's nature.The last three tracks on Laughing Stock the strongest.' Taphead' is beautiful and haunting. Hollis manages to strip out all of the motion with his melancholic voice.' New Grass' and ' Runeii' remain steadfast in depicting what endorses such brilliant material.I highly recommend this album and Spirit Of Eden to anyone who has not heard them yet and is craving inspirational ' new ' soundscapes.
Review by FloydWright
5 stars Laughing Stock and Spirit of Eden very much complement each other both musically and lyrically. Even the similar cover art highlights the commonality...together like sunrise and sunset. Sadly, this album marked the sunset for TALK TALK, a band that grew from mundane pop origins into mesmerising, minimalist, and deeply spiritual pondering that proved a nightmare for the creativity-stifling music industry. Perhaps--and this is simply my interpretation--the title of the album reflects a resigned understanding on the part of the band of what was likely to be...and at the same time, maybe even a sense of eagerness to meet their fate, not in suicidal terms , but in an eagerness to embrace their eccentricity. Perhaps there is even pride in being the "laughing stock" of the insipid popular critics.

They do indeed have much to be proud of. Like its companion, Spirit of Eden, this album could very easily have been produced just yesterday instead of over a decade ago. Though the comparison may seem strange at first, I am reminded of a more minimalist version of Sigur Ros (perhaps TALK TALK influenced them?). Pieces like the rather atonal, meandering "Myrrhman", and "Runeii's" game of silences are perhaps the most experimental of the lot, although even the more "normal"-seeming "Ascension Day" shows signs of it as well. On Laughing Stock, I nominate "Ascension Day" (despite its abrupt cutoff--glitch or intentional?) and "New Grass" as the two best tracks.

Laughing Stock is perhaps a bit more upbeat than Spirit of Eden, which seems to have portrayed a man so downtrodden that he yearns to make a new start. Laughing Stock lyrically seems like the faint beginnings of that new morning, although that desperation is still there ("New Grass" in particular helps create this impression). In order to decipher the lyrics, it's necessary to both read MARK HOLLIS' nearly illegible handwriting and his equally cryptic, faint and melodic singing--but once done, a very interesting picture emerges. HOLLIS' lyrics are replete with a deep, instinctive spirituality...not the dogmatic, pop kind of "Christianity", but something very natural and flowing--he seems to write these things not to proselytize, but simply because it is an integral part of his being. As such, it's a delight to listen to. Yes, he can discern some of the problems, but rather than launch on a bitter diatribe, he instead expresses a gentle longing for things to be put right. "Heaven waits--someday Christendom may come Westward"...perhaps a suggestion that what did come westward from the Holy Land very often did not truly reflect what Jesus stood for. But, even with this he does not condemn--he hopes, and this is what makes his more spiritual ruminations so listenable and so touching.

Overall, this is an album NOT to be missed...I am deeply glad that Polydor saved this gem from fading away to a distant memory. As it is, it's too little known.

Review by Man Erg
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This album is staggering in it's beauty and complexicity.It continues where the previous the previous album,Spirit of Eden,leaves of but,on a higher level. The textures are the same but the arrangements are much more complex but those complexities are disguised by the overall, subdued atmosphere.

The album starts of with Myrrhman.An ambient classical arrangement in a Morton Subotnik meets Terry Riley style that pays homage to early 1970s Miles Davis. Ascention Day is a lazy summer's day drift of ambient washes with, again, a jazzy feel. After the Flood is astounding.Epic in proportion.A maelstom of swirling atmospherics with squalls of feedback guitar and laconicly dreamy vocals from Mark Hollis.The evocative Taphead slowly evoles from After the Flood,oozing like molasses before the listener has had time to realise that it's a new track.It is insidiously beautiful.New Grass was ,at the time of release,something new altogether.Barely audible vocals and guitar,similar in tome to Tim Buckley collaborator,Lee Underwood, it is surely the blueprint for all slow-core bands that followed.The album ends with Runeii.It ends the album like a parent creeping out of a room trying not to disturb a sleeping child.

This album is an overlooked,under-rated masterpiece.Hear it before you die!

Review by Matti
4 stars I digged Talk Talk already before they changed direction into more avant-garde style (though in fact there wasn't any dramatic, sudden turn: Colour of Spring already had moments basically similar to what was to come), but the two last studio albums really increased my appreciation. Later, Mark Hollis has made a solo in the same style but it left me cold. It reached the point too minimalistic to me - and I bet many rock listeners would think the same about Laughing Stock or its predecessor. This is ART! Not art for art's sake but a truly individual, thoroughly matured musical & poetical expression that gives a deep and exciting listening experience, yet perhaps to a relatively narrow audience.

'Myrrham' starts the album in a meditative way without a rhythm and with Hollis' depressed vocals as equal part of the sound scenery. The next tracks, on the contrary, build around percussion and steady rhythm. The album's sound carpet combines rock instruments and chamber music instruments, mainly viola and cello. There are no clear melodic soli, instead it's like a sonic landscape that gradually changes as one walks in it. I feel no loss of direction or strength even in its more boring parts.

There are two tracks nearing ten minutes; they are not progressive compositions but sort of wall-paper music - I use the term positively here - in which the length is trivial: principally, could be either half shorter or twice as long, but anyway I feel this whole album measured exactly right. The element of space is a crucial part of it all. The vocals are often difficult to catch (just as the hand-written prints of them are difficult to read) but that actually only increases the shamanistic, meditative nature of it.

I listen to this album quite rarely but each time I do, I more or less love it. And I find it very difficult to describe (even with a long-lasting writing session I'm afraid I've been shooting in the dark); maybe it has some fragile aura which could be harmed with more active listening. ___ The trusted James Marsh cover art is among his (=Talk Talk's) best: exotic birds covering the 'continents' of a globe-like tree.

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars It just really amazes me how TALK TALK went from a pop band selling tons of records to this, almost the complete opposite. It's like Mark Hollis purposely did this to distance himself from TALK TALK's early work, or maybe this is a progression which started with "Color Of Spring", developed even further with "Spirit Of Eden" until becoming the finished work of progressive art in "Laughing Stock". Progressive music indeed ! Besides the traditional instruments we get viola, harmonica, harmonium, cello, clarinet, flugel horn, trumpet and more.

"Myrrhman" is very slow going with reserved vocals and many instruments that come and go. "Ascension Day" is more alive as percussion, guitar, bass and other sounds lead off. A fuller sound a minute in then vocals come in as it settles back. Some organ later. "After The Flood" opens with keys and some atmosphere. It's building until drums and organ join in. A steady beat is the result. Vocals before 2 1/2 minutes. It gets a little avant and noisy after 4 minutes.

"Taphead" starts slowly and quietly as fragile vocals join in. Not much going on until horns make some noise 3 minutes in. It settles again. "New Grass" opens with steady drums as other sounds come in including vocals. "Runell" opens wih guitar as piano comes in. A dead calm before the vocals come in.

I would check out "Spirit Of Eden" first, if you like it then try this one.

Review by Prog-jester
5 stars Some people tend to say "Spirit of Eden" and "Laughing Stock" are twins. It's like saying all movies are the same because they're screened in theatres. No, they're not. "Spirit of Eden" and "Laughing Stock" are Yin and Yang. Like day and night. Like sweet and sour. Like Jackyll and Hide. Like hope and despare. Like God and Devil. They're NOT the same things, they're two parts of the whole. Combined together they produce pure magic.

For "Laughing Stock" I have a certain image in my head. Imagine an empty stage with a curtain. You hear some sounds, you see the curtain moving as if there's something happening behind it, but you're not sure. This is how here the TALKies sound exactly - the most interesting is on the background.

1. MYRRHMAN starts with 16-seconds long amplifier noise. Quite minimalistic, indeed. The song itself has neither certain structure nor definite rhythm - gone are structures, that already were quite blurred on "Spirit of Eden". Atmospherically opener reminds me of David Lynch and Neil Young shadows again, and winds' passage in song's end reminds of Mark Hollis solo album...the same way free playing.

2. ASCENSION DAY is the same way wicked as DESIRE from "Spirit..". But it's as cold and mechanic, as DESIRE was hot and vivid. 7/8 beat, Hollis heading the scene, and it all leads to inescapable collapse, abrupt and sudden as a knife in a spine.

3. AFTER THE FLOOD serves as a ghost of Eden here. Only a ghost, because this is obviously "Laughing Stock"'s creature - mellow but cold. Listen carefully, and maybe then you'll notice that "behind-the-curtain" effect I've told you about.

4. TAPHEAD is awesomely Lynch-like. With these crying winds, slowly building-up and then yeliing suddenly from nowhere, with loads of "behind-the-curtain" sounds again, with desperate Mark's voice and whispering guitar...this is possibly the weirdest song here, but the most striking.

5. NEW GRASS strikes as the most emotional one. Again a thousand men playing from behind the curtain, but on the forefront you can see only TALKies, with straight 5/8 beat, ambient keyboard textures, guitar line and touching Hollis' chanting. If there a thing more beautiful than this, let me know.

6. RUNEII is exactly a kind of track where silence weights more than music. Hypnotic and meditative, it closes "Laughing Stock" in a perfect way. It's where equilibrium was reached, where WEALTH and RUNEII sound almost like the one song, but played through different lens - warm summer and cold winter. The circle is closed, new grass is rising through, and the new dawn is here. It's not the end, but a new beginning. The TALKies have passed away to make the world a better place to be than before. And it was 101% success in a spiritual way. Let the big record company bosses eat each other. The musc must live on, and there's no better thing than art for people, not for hit-parades, regimes or someone's wallet. The TALKies inspired the whole 90s scene, and you will hardly find a sane person that would hate them. I simply love TALK TALK. And you?

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The transition between Spirit Of Eden and Laughing Stock may not have been as apparent when compared to the band's dramatic transition from commercial pop to gorgeous Art-Rock but I personally feel that this album is a lot more experimental and evolved than anything else in Talk Talk's catalog.

The period leading up to this release was definitely I difficult one for the band since they received a law-suit from their previous record label who pleaded that their previous record, Spirit Of Eden was not "commercially satisfactory" and it's understandable that the band would start to show signs of fatigue.Still they managed to transfer those feeling into the music and the results speak for themselves.

This is a much darker album in terms of mood and style. It's hard to pick any song highlight here since they all follow the same basic pattern, but Myrrhman, Ascension Day and After The Flood are the ones that stand out the most for me. It's just a very unique album in every possible way!

***** star songs: Ascension Day (6:00)

**** star songs: Myrrhman (5:33) After The Flood (9:39) Taphead (7:30) New Grass (9:40) Runeii (4:58)

Total Rating: 4,14

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Nothing to laugh about

If the change of style introduced on "Spirit of Eden" had come as something of a surprise, nothing prepared us for Talk talk's final album "Laughing stock". While "Spirit of Eden" still contained some of the elements which had led to the band's commercial success, albeit in a heavily diluted form, here Talk Talk take minimalism to a whole new level. The lengthy list of guest musicians on the sleeve disguises what is essentially one of the sparsest and least accessible albums ever made by a former pop band.

The album contains just 6 tracks, each running to between 5 and 10 minutes, and not a synthesiser in sight. Instead we have piano and organ as the principal instruments, together with brass and strings incursions, plus of course the unique tones of vocalist Mark Hollis.

"Myrrhman", which kicks off the album is barely perceptible at first, and remains emphatically understated throughout. If you can get past the challenge It offers, you're probably going to enjoy the album. The following "Ascension day" and "After the flood" are slightly livelier, but remain a million miles from the synth pop of the early albums.

"Taphead" reverts to the absolute basics until it is enhanced by a variety of organ backed horns, the mood remaining decidedly ambient and deep in thought. The closing "Runeii" finds Hollis's vocals becoming all but indecipherable, the striking guitar work being far more dominant, once again backed by some atmospheric organ.

It is probably fair to say that this is the only Talk Talk album (with the possible exception of "Spirit of Eden") which will appeal to many visitors to this site. The complete absence of anything remotely pop, and the challenging nature of the music throughout should appeal to affectionados of the more avant-garde sub-genres included here.

Review by ZowieZiggy
2 stars If you are looking to some music to meditate, this might well be it!

If ever you thought that "Spirit Of Eden" was too quiet and ambient, don't listen to this one. This type of intellectual, minimalist and highly experimental music just bores me to death. The absolute nadir being "Myrrhman" and "Taphead".

I almost regret their synth pop period! Anyway, such an album does hold prog fiber in it, that's not the question. But it is probably closer to prog electronic than any other style. But of course their earlier albums had nothing to do here, so it is pretty difficult to catapult a band as Talk Talk in whichever category on PA.

But while I can be impressed by some sidereal "Tangerine Dream" efforts, I have lots of difficulties to encounter any positive aspects in such a work as Laughing Stock. Obviously a sub par derivate of "Spirit Of Eden", but there are no surprises any longer at this stage.

Some passages are fine to listen to, but I can't say this from one single complete song. Only bit and bytes. Here and there. Definitely not enough to reach the status of a good album in my rating. This album is hardly melodic either, so what's left? I truly don't know. Maybe some medition?

Two stars.

Review by Prog Leviathan
4 stars I've heard very few albums accomplish what Talk Talk does here so easily, and with so delicate a palette of sounds. "Laughing Stock" is like the collective souls of artists and lovers laid bare; breathlessly beautiful and elegant, its minimalist and occasionally rousing songs paint a mood which will strike to the listener's spirit.

Largely instrumental, the ephemeral structure of these songs will challenge many listeners, but it is never, ever boring. "Laughing Stock" doesn't follow the template of most contemporary post-rock groups, but instead explores the open space, pulling out emotions through a variety in instrumentation and effects which often times feel improvised. "Experimental" could describe it, but "artistic" would be more apt. Mellow rock beats sometimes appear to fill the space, punctuating the soundscapes with memorable landmarks along the way. Hollis' sparse vocals are unique and soulful, fitting into the melancholy tapestry excellently. The whole effect is a wonderfully understated and engaging meditation. Highly recommended for anyone seeking something emotive, creative, and fragile; this album sets the mood wonderfully.

Songwriting: 3 Instrumental Performances: 4 Lyrics/Vocals: 4 Style/Emotion/Replay: 5

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Despite being challenging, groundbreaking and highly influential on all modern rock music created afterwards, this album will probably sit uncomfortably with most prog heads. An explanation is that prog is usually very busy music, with loads of stuff going on, preferably all at once! This is the exact opposite; it's slow, sparse, almost without rhythm and without easily recognizable melodies. Yes and ELP couldn't be further away.

Myrrhman is as elusive as its title. The melodic progression is so slow it becomes almost ambient. It's not hard to see the huge influence it must have had on Steve Wilson when he penned No-man's Together We're Stranger. I especially love the cracked guitar chords and Hollis pensive melodies.

Ascension Day unleashes noisy guitars on a laidback jazzy groove. Without ever straining himself, Hollis has such a natural emotive strength in his voice. Beautiful. As on Spirit Of Eden, there's an entire legion of guest musicians that show themselves masters of restraint. The arrangements are very intricate though and continue to reveal new things upon each listen.

The dark mood continues on After The Flood, with lush Hammond sounds and Hollis' morose musings. Taphead is one of the most experimental compositions, featuring minimalist smoky jazz parts with slightly dissonant harmonics. New Grass is more rhythmic, but again the melodic development is very abstract and suggestive. With Runeii the album ends as magical as it started.

I think this is Talk Talk's highest achievement next to the entirely different The Colour of Spring. It is never an easy listen and it could be an absolutely horrid event for metal fans, but I love the freedom and natural fluidity of this music a lot. It's one of the most innovative and defining albums of the early 90's, and more importantly, it's an absolutely mystifying experience.

Review by Dobermensch
3 stars There's nothing better than hearing a band evolve and change over short periods of time - even if it's not for the better. Talk Talk are one of these bands, where 'Laughing Stock' sounds a million miles from their debut album in '82.

This is clearly a more mature album than their earlier releases, but just not as exciting. The splinter group 'O-Rang' do a far better job for me than this album. That's not to say that 'Laughing Stock' is bad. Far from it. Ian Hollis' vocals sounds great, being very suited to this type of music. The space used between players is fantastic and it's got an original sound that could only be attributed to Talk Talk.

Despite the huge number of contributors on this recording, with instruments such as flugelhorn and violas utilised it all seems strangely flat. And I can't say I'm a big fan of those horribly tinny and raw sounding drums. Also Tim Friese-Greene's organ sounds ugly.

But hey, at least they made an effort, unlike most.

A nine year recording career which ends with the wholly acceptable 'Laughing Stock'. It's just a pity it wasn't their best. 'The Colour of Spring' is the one for me.

Oh well... at least there's less of that horrible Harmonica on this one.

Review by Warthur
4 stars On Laughing Stock, even the jazz influences which provided some sort of cohesion and reference point on Spirit of Eden begin to break down, and Talk Talk's role as the sires of post- rock is even more evident, with long brooding sections resembling territory which would later be explored by the likes of Tortoise and Godspeed You Black Emperor. I'm inclined to agree with Phil Brown, engineer on the project, when he describes it as being "dark and claustrophobic"; I'd also say this is a mild step down from Spirit of Eden, because whilst the band have tapped into a powerful and unique sound, they also don't quite seem to be comfortable with it and aren't entirely sure what to do with it. Not surprising, of course - an entire subgenre of artists haven't yet exhausted the possibilities opened up here - but it does lead to a less cohesive work than its predecessor.
Review by kenethlevine
3 stars As meritorious as were their ideas and, one may assume, their motives, TALK TALK crested rather timidly with this final release. The improvement rests chiefly in the presence of 2 masterful cuts, "After the Flood" and "New Grass", both profound in melancholy, with arrestingly soulful vocals, organs, and droning guitars. "New Grass" is nothing short of a minimalist triumph engendered by a deceptively lightweight riff. But elsewhere this is again mostly a vortex of void. However, "Ascension Day" is Hollis' most commendable stab a more grungy gritty feel that fell flat on "Spirit of Eden", and "Runeii" is a decent purely ambient piece on which to end. The album title must be ironic, as there is little to laugh with or at here, but unfortunately therein lies the only consistent feature of yet another intriguing project in which the echo is more memorable than its original note.
Review by jamesbaldwin
4 stars Talk Talk loses bassist Paul Webb, replaced by two session men who play acoustic bass, and Hollis with Lee Harris, but in reality with Tim Friese-Greene they publish an even less commercial art-work than the previous one, ever closer to free-jazz and free-folk with chamber ensemble. The sounds seem only hinted at, without being developed, the melodies are almost always truncated, it is music of pure suggestion, which produces evocation of atmospheres.

1. Myrrhman (5:33) Minimalist, jazzy music, Hollis' voice as protagonist, minimal, acoustic orchestral sounds, which are painted softly, almost in a low voice, as if we were at a meditation in the church, great suggestion, a lot of atmosphere, little melody. Rating 7,5.

2. Ascension Day (6:00) Here the drum snare pulses and the electric guitars are distorted, in a cold but dry, hard, almost hard rock arrangement, with a beautiful singing, and after two verses the electric guitar is released with a loud crescendo that ends suddenly. The masterpiece of the album and it is not a case that this is the most gritty song, the only one where the drama deflagrates. Rating 8,5.

3. After the Flood (9:39) Relaxed ballad, marked by keyboards and by the rhythm of the drums, which remains the same from the beginning to the end, and this is a handicap because the beauty of Talk Talk's music is now all in its unpredictability. Here the voice flies on the high notes in the refrain which, however, does not reach the peak of pathos of Spirit of Eden precisely because the rhythm continues always the same, and does not adapt to the dramatic crescendo. Then comes a good distorted guitar solo, which is more of a paroxysmal repetition of the same riff, then a keyboard solo, and finally a verse and chorus again. Atmospheric piece. Rating 7,5/8

End of Side A.

4. Taphead (7:30) Beautiful song, that part suffused, whispered, and then develops a wonderful instrumental part where the accumulated tension struggles to come out, we are at very high levels of refinement, cerebral and cold emotions, and only certain whispers of Hollis' voice or some instruments they bring out the pathos, the drama, which remains almost harnessed, except for a few seconds of final explosion. Rating 8+.

5. New Grass (9:40) This is the second long ballad conducted by the same rhythm of the drums, exactly like After the Flood but here the atmosphere is more cheerful, with an higher rhythm. But the phrases on the drums and on the guitar tend to be too repetitive and the central instrumental solo is almost immobile, Talk Talk seem to aspire to silence or to the ecstatic musical phrase to be left bare. Rating 7+.

6. Runeii (4:58) Minimalist song with voice and electric guitar, similar to the last song of the previous album, which was arranged with keyboards and vocals. This one is too nuanced, too soft. Rating 6,5/7.

Talk Talk continue in their evolution towards post-rock music increasingly similar to free-jazz, cold, sophisticated music, almost chamber music, where the structure of the songs is increasingly disarticulated. The record is remarkable but has a limit: the search for original and minimal sounds becomes conditioning towards the melody and the pathos, In Spirit of Eden, the musical qualities allowed to pass from a slow, dilated music, which had to overcome an inertia, to a music where voice and instruments finally exploded in powerful and dramatic moments. In this second record, the initial, inertial part of the songs is disproportionately dilated, and the final part, deflagrating, cathartic, struggles to arrive, Talk Talk prefer to mention it rather than develop it, so the inertial tension that pervades the songs does not have a true liberating outburst, it remains bottled in sounds and it is expressed only through hinted musical phrases, however beautiful and refined. This characteristic reduces pathos and emotions.

Rating: 8,5. Four Stars

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Heavy Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars Mark Hollis and stallwarts Lee Harris (drums) and Tim Friese-Greene (organ, piano, harmonium, producer) share a vision toward increasingly minimalist sound in order to express themselves musically. This is their final studio effort together.

1. "Myrrhman" (5:33) so spacious you can hear the "brush strokes" of the effects pedals' oscillations. Mark's singing is almost Louisiana bluesy. It's the incidentals and odd chord and key progressions that help keep this Venning in the Prog Rock, but really, this could be jazz--or, in the chamber strings section, modern classical--as much as Post Rock. Hypnotizing! Definitely a top three song for me.(9/10)

2. "Ascension Day" (6:00) about three times uptempo as the previous song, there's actually some rock to this one--kind of raw, 1960s WHO feel, before Mark's vocal enters. (Man! I never thought of this before: but there is a striking similarity in his singing voice to that of PETE TOWNSEND! Pitch, tone, style, though not diction.) Drums are recorded so raw and natural--probably one single mic doing the job. Lee starts out with a kind of Steve Jansen style and patters before turning pure jazz rock. Near the halfway point a discordant passage from the chamber strings section throws everything into temporary turmoil, but then we come back to some bluesy jazz before releasing the "early Who" motif to take us back to Mark's vocals. Harmonica and organ join in in the fifth minute. Interesting. Another top three. (8.75/10)

3. "After the Flood" (9:39) roving piano notes gradually reveal a pattern as organ and reverse electric guitar notes rise up from beneath over the first minute. Simple, straight time "plein air" jazz drums, bass, and soft jazz electric guitar arpeggi then rise up during the second minute. Bass and organ become the most active and interesting. By minute three Mark's singing voice has entered. This is a lot like a combination of "I Believe in You" and "Life's What You Make It"--especially as Mark's vocal becomes more impassioned. Lots of additional instruments making incidental contributions. Raw, sustained electric guitar screaming solo in the fifth and sixth minutes while piano plays gently beneath--and the drums and bass play on as if nothing is happening. I like the steadfastness of the drums--and the fellowship of the bass and organ in tandem. Lots of cluttering incidentals join in during the seventh and eighth minutes--even while Mark is singing. The final 90 seconds are left to the main rhythm section to play out in their faithful way while several more incidentalists throw their contributions into the mix--to fade. Nice song. Another top three for me. (18/20)

4. "Taphead" (7:30) odd discordance or disharmony exists right from the start between the guitar's gentle finger picking, the keys, and Mark's vocal. Even the horn and strings' contributions seem only to magnify this message: as if the waywardness and dissonance of each of the individual instruments is intended to demonstrate disunity--or perhaps the difficulty of individuals to harmonize. I like the mysterious "message"--and understand the genius expressed here--but I am not really a fan of the music. (13/15)

5. "New Grass" (9:40) piano, gently picked chords of a jazz guitar, and jazz drumming accompany Mark's frail voice from the opening moment. The lyrics, I think, are what Mark thinks are the most important element of this song (a kind of numinous spiritual vision?) as the music beneath changes very little in pacing or expansion over the course of the entire ten minutes--only one instrument joins in for some soloing (beside piano and jazz electric guitar) and only a couple others for incidental contributions. Okay song. (17/20)

6. "Runeii (4:58) extra-bare, minimal support for Mark's almost-whispered vocal. Slow tremolo picking of single guitar strings is the only constant, with incidental cymbal play, and upright piano chords in a distant background. Nothing very special here. (8/10)

Total Time: 43:20

I can defintely see why so many people revere this band/man's work after (and, for some, including) The Colour of Spring. There is such purity of spirit to this music, so much to listen to because of the clear soundscapes. There might even be interesting messages being conveyed by Mark's vocals (I just don't hear them).

B/four stars; an excellent and definitely unusual addition to any prog lover's music collection.

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1 stars I recently came across another glowing review on PA for this album and around the same time an article about Radiohead and the 20th anniversary of OK Computer. With neither album being something that I found particularly enjoyable, I figured I would listen back to back after seeing them sit on the s ... (read more)

Report this review (#2309281) | Posted by johnobvious | Saturday, January 25, 2020 | Review Permanlink

5 stars With the release of Spirit of Eden, Talk Talk had effectively launched themselves into controversy? was Spirit of Eden a pretentious glorification of noodling or a sonically enthralling masterpiece? With critical ratings ranging all over the board, any band might have tried to tame the beast and ... (read more)

Report this review (#1098277) | Posted by Polymorphia | Monday, December 23, 2013 | Review Permanlink

2 stars I was surprised to see this band on Prog Archives since I was only familiar with them as a pop band from the 80s, similar to Thompson Twins, The The, and all those other T-T bands of the era. It is always good to see a band (or the artist who dominates it) evolve over time. That said, I am not ... (read more)

Report this review (#621326) | Posted by Progosopher | Friday, January 27, 2012 | Review Permanlink

5 stars There's nothing I can add to the other reviews (especially those who praise this masterpiece, as well as its two predecessors). However, what surprises me is that no one has made the connection to Marillion's great albums with Hogarth, particularly MARBLES. To be honest, I've only discovered MARBLES ... (read more)

Report this review (#457071) | Posted by jude111 | Saturday, June 4, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Where most bands started their carrear with more experimental and lesser acvessible Genesis, King Crimson, Yes, Pink Floyd and more recent Porcupine Tree. Talk Talk went completely in the opposite direction...I guess its not everybody's dream to fill footballstadiums and sell mill ... (read more)

Report this review (#209797) | Posted by Daniel1974nl | Thursday, April 2, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Probably the most beautiful rock CD I own, Talk Talk's Laughing Stock is the swan song of the band who is credited for founding the post-rock genre. A marvelous thing about Laughing Stock is that it doesn't seem to have been made in any particular decade; it is a truly timeless album. Mark Hollis ... (read more)

Report this review (#189843) | Posted by volta3 | Tuesday, November 18, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars In 1991, Mark Hollis and the rest of Talk Talk were in a unique position for avant-garde musicians. Their previous album, Spirit of Eden, was one of the biggest changes in music history of a band's artistic direction, and, unfortunately for Talk Talk's record label, that direction ultimately produ ... (read more)

Report this review (#158672) | Posted by auralsun | Tuesday, January 15, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars It's a bit of a travesty that this masterpiece is still rated lower than Spirit of Eden, Talk Talk's preceding album. Although Spirit of Eden is undoubtedly a wonderful album, this LP transcends it in every way. It's a simply breathtaking piece of art, staggering in its complexity and artistic v ... (read more)

Report this review (#127642) | Posted by robg | Thursday, July 5, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This album and Spirit Of Eden are twin peaks; both exist in their own right as masterpieces of a new musical language created. As pointed out by another reviewer, Laughing Stock is the more hypnotic, minimal counterpart to the jaw-dropping genius of Spirit; a darker comedown perhaps, like Radioh ... (read more)

Report this review (#113240) | Posted by zoviet | Friday, February 23, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Last of the three great Talk Talk albums. The process of moving away from their synth-pop origins that really began with The Colour of Spring, continued with Spirit of Eden, reached its conclusion with Laughing Stock. I actually heard this before I heard Spirit of Eden, and this would proba ... (read more)

Report this review (#100948) | Posted by zedkatz | Wednesday, November 29, 2006 | Review Permanlink

2 stars "Laughing Stock" is "Spirit Of Eden" twin album: same cover style, same music style. This time though, the music is centered on acoustic instruments (the main reason why bassist Paul Webb left... he didn't have much stuff to do on the last album, and on this one it would have been even less) a ... (read more)

Report this review (#76359) | Posted by zaxx | Wednesday, April 26, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars absolutely essential listening for anyone tired of the old 4/4, verse-chorus-verse, guitar/bass/drum bull[&*!#]e. experimental yet never without great musicality. takes a few listens to fully appreciate, and not something you want to spin everyday - though I have at times. also has phenomenal ... (read more)

Report this review (#40064) | Posted by | Saturday, July 23, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Me listening to TALK TALK? You fool! ...and a number of good friends came away without listening to this miracle (miracles do happen, you know). The way Talk Talk adventure began (a sort of silly Durans, I'm afraid) didn't allow most people to see the incredible path Mark Hollis was able to fo ... (read more)

Report this review (#31140) | Posted by | Tuesday, June 1, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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