Personnel: Mark Hollis (vocals, guitar, piano, organ); George Robertson , Wilfred Gibson, Jack Glickman, Stephen Tees, Levine Andrade, Garfield Jackson, Gavyn Wright (viola); Roger Smith , Paul Kegg (cello); Mark Feltham (harmonica); Dave White (clarinet, contrabass clarinet); Henry Lowther (trumpet, flugelhorn); Tim Friese-Greene (piano, harmonium, organ); Ernest Mothle, Simon Edwards (acoustic bass); Lee Harris (drums); Martin Ditcham (percussion).
Recording information: Wessex Studios, London, England (09/1990-04/1991); Wessex stuidos London (09/1990-04/1991).
The fifth Talk Talk album, LAUGHING STOCK, was its first following the band's much publicized split with EMI Records (the album was issued by the jazz label Verve). Recorded with a huge complement of string instruments, LAUGHING STOCK is a far cry from the pop music of the band's early days--indeed, there are very few records that sound like it at all.
Containing elements of rock, classical, jazz, and experimental music, it pays little or no attention to traditional musical structures, setting its sights instead on unexplored realms. On "After the Flood," a slithering bass line and low-key drum pattern are colored in with peals of shrieking guitar feedback, while the whole track is suffused with sampled rain effects. "Taphead" opens with an underplayed guitar line against Mark Hollis's hesitant vocals, before devolving into a piece that's part song and part sound sculpture, punctuated by strings and horns that suggest metal fatigue in a cavernous ship's hold. The ebb and flow of "New Grass" features instruments bubbling and echoing around Hollis's shimmering voice, set to a jazzy backbeat. This is one slowly enveloping record.
Q (10/91) - 4 Stars - Excellent - "...melancholy mood, a rare thoughtfulness and the sense of sharing something deeply personal... haunting, emotional.."
Melody Maker (12/91) - Ranked #12 in Melody Maker's list of the top 30 albums of 1991 - "...a sound whose ambience is as natural as breathing..."
Mojo (Publisher) (3/00, p.118) - "...as glorious a swan-song as ever was....web-delicate arrangements, perfectly-judged acoustics, a silk-fine weave of jazz, classical and gospel textures - and distills them to the purest essence....life-enriching music..."