Monday, 5 February 2018

Laurie Anderson - Mister Heartbreak (1984)

Just noticed that Laurie Anderson's back with a new album imminent - should be interesting, with Kronos Quartet on board - so that made me dig this out.  I remember missing out on Mister Heartbreak, her second album, for ages on the assumption that 'it probably isn't as good as Big Science', so got a very nice surprise in how wonderful it was.

Always loved how Big Science could make a bunch of extracts from an epic performance piece somehow hang together as a weirdly accessible album, but Mister Heartbreak is first and foremost an accessible album, and a hugely accomplished one at that.  The supporting cast are 80s avant-garde to-die-for: Adrian Belew's noise guitar gives a memorable bite to the elastic bounce of Sharkey's Day's everyman dreamworld; Bill Laswell helps out with the production and adds granite-tough bass to the Thomas Pynchon-inspired Gravity's Angel, and a cusp-of-mainstream-fame Peter Gabriel adds vocals there and on the collaboration Excellent Birds, originally written for Nam June Paik's New Year's Day 1984 broadcast.

This time around, only a further two tracks were recasts from the aforementioned United States, Anderson's eight-hour performance piece: Langue d'Amour, a comic fantasia on the Fall Of Man legend for slithering synclavier and 'electronic conches', and the Herman Melville-cribbing Blue Lagoon, with its nice jumpy synclavier backing that gives a penultimate raising of the tempo before the brief finale ends with a stark coda to Sharkey's Day.  Titled, naturally, Sharkey's Night, this end piece saves the most memorable guest for last in William S. Burroughs' drawling take on the character.  I'll need to fill in all the gaps in my Laurie Anderson listening before properly concluding that Mister Heartbreak is her best album - or at least my favourite of hers - but I suspect there's a high chance that opinion won't change.



  1. Thanks Alan, I haven't heard this album since it came out, but listening again after all these years, I remember all (well most) of the great words, fantastic stuff.

  2. The music and composition on this record is tops. The recording quality and mixing is pure shite. Just, bad. Big Science sounds a million times better.