Talk Talk - Laughing Stock (1991), 7/10

Talk Talk’s final effort Laughing Stock takes the band’s new direction of sound even further in practice than the previous Spirit of Eden, resulting in a more impactful and influential album. You can hear much of what was to come from the post-rock movement in a song like the closer “Runeii” that incorporates the strengths of the previous album’s rock-tinged atmospheric experimentation while reaching forward with more spatial awareness and more interesting individual sounds, all layered masterfully. The album also hosts one of Talk Talk’s greatest individual compositions in “Taphead” that creates a unique blend of sounds that come together as off-kilter mood crafting that works remarkably well considering its entirely novel structure and sound for the band. Nailing something so abstract and ideologically novel right away is truly noteworthy. As a whole work, the album generally experiments with more interesting sounds and takes a very necessary step further and deeper into unexplored territory. Atmospheric music can result in a vast array of results, sometimes travelling great distances with a sense of adventure or at times repeatedly treading the same ground. Talk Talk generally seem more interested in circling individually interesting ideas, both in terms of sound and in terms of structure. This is my greatest criticism of Spirit of Eden that fortunately is less true for Laughing Stock. While it does take too long for them to settle on these sounds and their role within the compositions for my taste, the album is still quite successful in its aim. They experiment with more interesting sounds, including some genuinely unexpected and adventurous examinations into unknown sounds. This creates a beautiful set of tracks, regardless of their range of memorability. This is true specifically for the opener, before the duo of “Ascension Day” and “After the Flood” accomplishing quite the opposite result. The percussive excitement adds needed vitality to the sparse layering spread across the album, but the compositions still fail to go anywhere worth revisiting generally. Still, only this set of musicians and a vocalist like Hollis can make these compositions work this well despite their theoretical weaknesses. “After the Flood” offers a more effective blend of the ethereal and eerie sound varieties while incorporating satisfying acoustic sounds. The record as an experience is remarkably forward-thinking and notably progressive, offering another refreshingly non-traditional album experience at the close of the band’s catalogue.