sharkey's night

Showing 2 posts tagged sharkey's night

Home of the Brave [1986]:
a film by Laurie Anderson. The soundtrack is also her third LP.
In United States, Ms. Anderson pokes fun more than once at the idea of promoting herself, or even of anyone caring about her work. She reads her own promotional brochure during a song, the same song in which she recounts a fictional chat with a record executive (“Yankee See”); she acts out a segment of a radio show called “Difficult Listening Hour.” At one point in part IV of U.S., she even gets out a telephone and pretends to invite a reluctant friend to a party — the party she’s at right now — which is her show — the show that she’s doing — right now.
"Yeah, I know it’s late. Yeah, I know you’re asleep. It’s kind of noisy here. There’s kind of a party going on… Listen, just put your shoes on and call a taxi and come down… Thirty-five dollars, but it’s — yeah — it’s two nights. Listen, uh — I’m sure I could get you in." 
By 1985, she was touring Mister Heartbreak and had never been more famous. The milieu shift resulted in a duo-dimensional follow-up to Heartbreak: a concert film called Home of the Brave, and an album of the newer material from the film. Aside from the six new songs, “Sharkey’s Night” expands here from the William S. Burroughs album-closing sketch on Heartbreak to a proper, climactic art-funk sequel to “Sharkey’s Day” (also performed in the film, by the way) — and yes, the redone “Language Is a Virus” is once again originally from United States.
As the title Home of the Brave is conceptually one step removed from the title United States, so the film Home of the Brave is a pop revue version of the form she pioneered in United States. That’s not to say the film is any less engaging as a performance piece — frankly, it’s probably “more fun” — only that U.S. balances austerity and humor with a magic ratio, while Home of the Brave, by contrast, does a bunch of super-groovy party tricks and then says goodnight. It’s a great movie that would make a perfect double feature opening for the just-slightly-superior Stop Making Sense; they share dancing, rear-projections, lights-as-props, awesome black female backup-singing duos, and more! (I would wager that, as is often the case, contemporary influence went both ways there.)
In the transition from performance artist to art-pop star, one thing Laurie seems to lose for a moment here is her looming mastery of themes. Or does it transform into something less looming? Dark contemplation of our relationship with society and its technology has been replaced with a lightly satirical spin on TV, home computing and fame — her own. If there’s such a thing as glitzy art-pop, this is it. 
In the next post we’ll be listening to the would-be hit single from Home of the Brave, “Smoke Rings.” But for the moment I’ll just describe a particularly telling track on the LP called “Talk Normal,” an uber-goofy Latin dance number that seems to completely mock the idea of her ever having even a “would-be hit single,” all while throwing out the most hilariously mundane spoken fragments she’s ever conceived (“First National Bank? I love it! New hat? Forget it! Moby Dick? Never read it!”). When everything but the percussion has dropped out, she ends it this way:
"I turned a corner in SoHo today and someone looked right at me and said, ‘Oh no. Another Laurie Anderson clone. And I said: ‘Look at me. LOOK at me. LOOK at me. Look at me, look at me, look at me, LOOK at me. Look at me. Look at me. Look at me. Look at me.’”

Home of the Brave [1986]:

a film by Laurie Anderson. The soundtrack is also her third LP.

In United States, Ms. Anderson pokes fun more than once at the idea of promoting herself, or even of anyone caring about her work. She reads her own promotional brochure during a song, the same song in which she recounts a fictional chat with a record executive (“Yankee See”); she acts out a segment of a radio show called “Difficult Listening Hour.” At one point in part IV of U.S., she even gets out a telephone and pretends to invite a reluctant friend to a party — the party she’s at right now — which is her show — the show that she’s doing — right now.

"Yeah, I know it’s late. Yeah, I know you’re asleep. It’s kind of noisy here. There’s kind of a party going on… Listen, just put your shoes on and call a taxi and come down… Thirty-five dollars, but it’s — yeah — it’s two nights. Listen, uh — I’m sure I could get you in." 

By 1985, she was touring Mister Heartbreak and had never been more famous. The milieu shift resulted in a duo-dimensional follow-up to Heartbreak: a concert film called Home of the Brave, and an album of the newer material from the film. Aside from the six new songs, “Sharkey’s Night” expands here from the William S. Burroughs album-closing sketch on Heartbreak to a proper, climactic art-funk sequel to “Sharkey’s Day” (also performed in the film, by the way) — and yes, the redone “Language Is a Virus” is once again originally from United States.

As the title Home of the Brave is conceptually one step removed from the title United States, so the film Home of the Brave is a pop revue version of the form she pioneered in United States. That’s not to say the film is any less engaging as a performance piece — frankly, it’s probably “more fun” — only that U.S. balances austerity and humor with a magic ratio, while Home of the Brave, by contrast, does a bunch of super-groovy party tricks and then says goodnight. It’s a great movie that would make a perfect double feature opening for the just-slightly-superior Stop Making Sense; they share dancing, rear-projections, lights-as-props, awesome black female backup-singing duos, and more! (I would wager that, as is often the case, contemporary influence went both ways there.)

In the transition from performance artist to art-pop star, one thing Laurie seems to lose for a moment here is her looming mastery of themes. Or does it transform into something less looming? Dark contemplation of our relationship with society and its technology has been replaced with a lightly satirical spin on TV, home computing and fame — her own. If there’s such a thing as glitzy art-pop, this is it. 

In the next post we’ll be listening to the would-be hit single from Home of the Brave, “Smoke Rings.” But for the moment I’ll just describe a particularly telling track on the LP called “Talk Normal,” an uber-goofy Latin dance number that seems to completely mock the idea of her ever having even a “would-be hit single,” all while throwing out the most hilariously mundane spoken fragments she’s ever conceived (“First National Bank? I love it! New hat? Forget it! Moby Dick? Never read it!”). When everything but the percussion has dropped out, she ends it this way:

"I turned a corner in SoHo today and someone looked right at me and said, ‘Oh no. Another Laurie Anderson clone. And I said: ‘Look at me. LOOK at me. LOOK at me. Look at me, look at me, look at me, LOOK at me. Look at me. Look at me. Look at me. Look at me.’”

Mister Heartbreak [1984]:
the second album by Laurie Anderson — or, as pop music fans often seem to see it in the narrative of any artist, the “what now?” album.
OK, so “O Superman” had made its mark, and United States had finished its run with Big Science in its wake. By this time, Laurie was an international icon of sorts, someone stylish and keen who represented aspects of both the pop world and the art world. One look at the musicians featured on Mister Heartbreak, in fact, and it becomes clear she had deliberately burst out of the bubble inside of which Big Science was assembled.
The Mister Heartbreak "band" consists of bassist Bill Laswell and guitarist Adrian Belew, both seasoned players of genre-blending art rock. The guest roster takes it further, including Anton Fier, Nile Rodgers, Peter Gabriel, and even William S. Burroughs, who takes over her speaking role on album closer "Sharkey’s Night." Of her previous stable of U.S./B.S. musicians, only drummer David Van Tieghem makes a repeat appearance. Each of these players’ contributions (along with several others’) are inextricable from the resulting record, which nevertheless could not be anything but a Laurie Anderson record, not even for one second.
It is fair to say that the mood lightens here; there is less explicit comedy than before, but hand in hand as it is with her, there is also less overhanging dread. Yet she continues to explore The Grey Area. The stories she tells and songs she sings are about missed connections, mistranslations, and mystery. And if the accompaniment on Big Science is stark, with a tonal range from eerie to ethereal, the music here is relatively full, ranging instead from dreamy to ecstatic. Another switch is in the rhythmic focus: Big Science ticks along, with fits of percussive expressionism; Mister Heartbreak is composed of liquid grooves.
The transition is so striking, it’s easy to forget that three of the seven songs on this LP, as well, originate from the material in United States. One quality they have in common with each other and not other songs from the same pool: highly irregular beat counts that magically translate into naturally rhythmic music. Notably, "Blue Lagoon" is based on an ostinato with a signature of 27/8, grouped into three bars of 7 and one of 6, or possibly even 4-3-4-3-3-4-2-4. (That’s a nod to my fellow musician heads — some of you must be out there. Forgive me if I lost anyone for a second. Either way, think of it as a code, open to subjective interpretations.)
In the next post, we’ll hear the song that, for my mother and me, started it all: “Sharkey’s Day.”

Mister Heartbreak [1984]:

the second album by Laurie Anderson — or, as pop music fans often seem to see it in the narrative of any artist, the “what now?” album.

OK, so “O Superman” had made its mark, and United States had finished its run with Big Science in its wake. By this time, Laurie was an international icon of sorts, someone stylish and keen who represented aspects of both the pop world and the art world. One look at the musicians featured on Mister Heartbreak, in fact, and it becomes clear she had deliberately burst out of the bubble inside of which Big Science was assembled.

The Mister Heartbreak "band" consists of bassist Bill Laswell and guitarist Adrian Belew, both seasoned players of genre-blending art rock. The guest roster takes it further, including Anton Fier, Nile Rodgers, Peter Gabriel, and even William S. Burroughs, who takes over her speaking role on album closer "Sharkey’s Night." Of her previous stable of U.S./B.S. musicians, only drummer David Van Tieghem makes a repeat appearance. Each of these players’ contributions (along with several others’) are inextricable from the resulting record, which nevertheless could not be anything but a Laurie Anderson record, not even for one second.

It is fair to say that the mood lightens here; there is less explicit comedy than before, but hand in hand as it is with her, there is also less overhanging dread. Yet she continues to explore The Grey Area. The stories she tells and songs she sings are about missed connections, mistranslations, and mystery. And if the accompaniment on Big Science is stark, with a tonal range from eerie to ethereal, the music here is relatively full, ranging instead from dreamy to ecstatic. Another switch is in the rhythmic focus: Big Science ticks along, with fits of percussive expressionism; Mister Heartbreak is composed of liquid grooves.

The transition is so striking, it’s easy to forget that three of the seven songs on this LP, as well, originate from the material in United States. One quality they have in common with each other and not other songs from the same pool: highly irregular beat counts that magically translate into naturally rhythmic music. Notably, "Blue Lagoon" is based on an ostinato with a signature of 27/8, grouped into three bars of 7 and one of 6, or possibly even 4-3-4-3-3-4-2-4. (That’s a nod to my fellow musician heads — some of you must be out there. Forgive me if I lost anyone for a second. Either way, think of it as a code, open to subjective interpretations.)

In the next post, we’ll hear the song that, for my mother and me, started it all: “Sharkey’s Day.”