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Shake my head, turn my face to the floor...
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Laughing Stock is the final album by British group Talk Talk, embarking on an even further departure from their Synth-Pop/New Wave Music beginnings that began with their previous album, Spirit of Eden, and letting their jazz influences and experimental leanings shine through. Released on September 16, 1991, Laughing Stock is notable and sometimes referred to as being a Mark Hollis improvisation session with a bunch of guest artists; bassist Paul Webb left the band prior to recording, and Hollis hired a large ensemble for recordings (to put it into perspective, the amount of violists featured in this album is seven).

Laughing Stock, while somewhat criticised as being self-indulgent and pretentious upon release, has since gone on to critical acclaim. It's now recognised as one of the Trope Makers for Post-Rock, alongside Spiderland. While Talk Talk would break up and go their separate ways shortly after its' completion, the album still generates praise and respect amongst critics.

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Tracklist:

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

Principal members:

  • Mark Hollis – vocal, guitar, piano, organ (also variophon, uncredited)
  • Lee Harris - drums

Additional instrumentalists

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

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Reckon tropes see us the same:

  • Epic Rocking: Only one song, "Runeii", is under five minutes long (and even that song's merely two seconds shy). "After the Flood" and "New Grass" in particular stand out.
  • Fading into the Next Song: "After the Flood" into "Taphead" on CD copies outside the US; American CD copies lack the crossfade effect and instead feature "After the Flood" and "Taphead" as wholly separate tracks, as on the LP release. Interestingly, the lack of a cross-fade ends up highlighting a brief four-second guitar warmup at the start of "Taphead" that the crossfade on most CD copies obscures.
  • I Am the Band: Mark Hollis during this album, despite the presence of long-time drummer Lee Harris.
  • Lighter and Softer/Darker and Edgier: It's more artsy and bohemian compared to Slint's Spiderland, but heavier in mood and more fractured in comparison to Spirit of Eden.
  • New Sound Album: Listening to this, it's hard to believe the band was making cheap synthpop almost a decade before.
  • No Ending: "Ascension Day" cuts off abruptly at the six-minute mark.
  • Not Christian Rock: As with their previous album Spirit of Eden, religious themes are very prominent on Laughing Stock. However, it's more to serve as a reflection on Hollis himself than anything regarding Christianity.
  • Post-Rock: Trope Maker alongside Spiderland.
  • Stylistic Suck: The guitar at the end of "Ascension Day" is intentionally played off-tempo and adds to the chaos of the song's closing moments.
  • Uncommon Time: "Ascension Day" is in 7/4 and "After the Flood" is at least partially in 10/4.

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