[Review] Laurie Anderson: Home of the Brave (1986)

Que es mas macho, making music like this or dancing to it?

Kronomyth 4.0: Stop making dance.

The first sunflower we see from Van Gogh is a revelation. By the third or fourth sunflower, they start to look like sunflowers and lose their alienage. This, Laurie’s fourth sunflower, was conceived as part of a staged performance. I saw it on television and it left me nonplussed, but I’m not the artiest animal on the ark either.

Talking Heads had brought music to the stage with Stop Making Sense and the Twyla Tharp collaboration, The Catherine Wheel. That Anderson was now using some of the same musicians as the Heads (Adrian Belew, Dolette McDonald) made the David Byrne connection clearer. Byrne is more musical than Anderson, Anderson more verbal than Byrne, but their artistic sensibilities align nicely so that fans of the one should appreciate the other.

Home of the Brave (the album) is even more musical than her last album, Mister Heartbreak. It’s still nontraditional rock music, but that I’m even calling it rock music is a leap forward. However, I’m not so much interested in what she has to play as what she has to say. The opening “Smoke Rings” (shades of Sylvia Plath) and “White Lily” are pure poetry, for my money the best things about Home of the Brave. “Talk Normal” to me seems incidental, “Sharkey’s Night” (different from the version on Heartbreak) noisy and indulgent. And the single from the album, “Language is a Virus,” lacks the subtlety that I most admire in her music.

Home of the Brave isn’t after subtlety; it’s in your face, over the top, an intellectual circus. I came here looking for sunflowers, and found only a lone white lily alienated by noisome weeds of the unconscious. Any Laurie Anderson album has its share of revelations, but this may claim the smallest share.

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Original LP Version

A1. Smoke Rings (7:00)
A2. White Lily (1:16)
A3. Late Show (4:30)
A4. Talk Normal (5:27)
B1. Language Is A Virus (4:10)
B2. Radar (2:01)
B3. Sharkey’s Night (6:16)
B4. Credit Racket (3:28)

All songs written by Laurie Anderson.

The Players

Laurie Anderson (vocals, keyboards, Synclavier violin, Synclavier, violin, crowd), Jow Askew (keyboards, Moog, Prophet, DX-7, vocals), Adrian Belew (guitar), Richard Landry (saxophone, clarinet), Dolette McDonald (vocals), Janice Pendarvis (vocals), David van Tieghem (percussion, drums) with Tawatha Agee (back-up vocals on B1), Robert Arron (sax on B1), Isidro Bobadillo (back-up vocals on B3), Knut Brown (crowd on B1), Jimmy Bralower (drums), William S. Burroughs (vocal sample on A3), Tom Durack (crowd on B1), Diane Garisto (back-up vocals on B3), Curtis King (back-up vocals on B1), Bill Laswell (bass animals on B4), Daniel Ponce (percussion on B3), Nile Rodgers (guitar, keyboards, Synclavier and crowd on B1), Rob Sabino (keyboards and morse code on A1), Frank Simms (back-up vocals on B1), Brenda White-King (back-up vocals on B1). Produced by Roma Baran and Laurie Anderson; basic track production on B1 by Nile Rodgers, original version co-production on B3 by Bill Laswell; engineered by Leanne Ungar.

The Pictures

Cover photography by Les Fincher. Cover and innersleeve art direction & design by Carolyn Cannon.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and cassette on May 26, 1986 in the US (Warner Bros., 25400-1/4), the UK and Germany (Warner Bros., 925 400-1/4), Argentina (WEA, 80002) and Canada (Wonder Bras, 92 54001) with lyric sleeve; reached #145 on the US charts. Re-issued on CD in 1987 in the US and Germany (Warner Bros., 25400).

Arcana

  • A VHS cassette of the performance was also released in 1986 in the US (Warner Bros., 38157-3) with a wider selection of songs.

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