Laurie Anderson - Big Science
Here’s an unusual album. Laurie Anderson’s Big Science is perhaps one of those where music critics and reviewers tell us how great it is, declare it as art and everyone nods and agrees. In the US over 125,000 followed that lead and bought the album. The now-defunct Pitchfork magazine back in 2018 listed Big Science at number 22 in their 200 Best Albums of the 1980s.
Anderson is known for experimental music, unusual sounds, and performance art. She has just been recognised again with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award so her work is still valued today. Back in April 1982 though her album Big Science was released. It’s a condensed set of highlights from Anderson’s eight-hour-long production United States Live, a live show featuring her in many performance art activities. If you are already wondering how that might transfer to a disc, there perhaps lies some of the issue.
Big Science, however highly rated is a tough listen. Full of unusual sounds and spoken word the various tracks are hard to take to. Even as a proud Scotsman, I reckon the bagpipes on “Sweaters” have a strangulated tone about them. And if you want full-on weird mode, try the closing track “Walk The Dog”.
Having said all that, a quirk of the album, and a delightful, though still unusual track in “Oh Superman!” with its rhythmic pulse beat is perhaps her best-known one. Over here in the UK, it was a massive hit as a single, reaching number two in the charts. I really liked it back then and it’s still captivating now.
But one hit does not make an album. That song apart, I don’t know what to make of Big Science. Other than to be sure the critics, and those trying to convince of its art worthiness, are way too praiseworthy in their rating.