I've known about Laurie Anderson for a while but only recently acquired the cult-famous first studio album of her's, Big Science. Laurie Anderson is one of those artists that I both love and love to hate. Her conceptual/performance art was so outrageously removed from mainstream culture and yet in 1981 she was (some how) able to produce a record album, Big Science with a hit single, O Superman.
However, Big Science is kind of difficult to actually listen to and a lot of the ideas that she was conveying on the record come off as cliche generalizations about United States culture... or not. Like I said I'm never sure what my opinion of her really is; I probably don't really need to have one. She is definitely an artist worth checking out, not only for her work but for what her work influenced.
bellow is an excerpt from the Pitchfork review of Big Science:
Big Science comprises songs from Anderson's also quite prescient United States project, a multimedia performance art piece cum opera ("It seemed like everyone I knew was working on an opera," she recalls) that depicted America on the brink of digital revolution and capitalist nirvana, where the dollar trumped tradition and the apocalypse-- cultural, political, technological-- loomed large. In fact, given its themes and presentation, much of Big Science sounds every bit about "the present" as "O Superman" does, and its idiosyncratic execution (with stylistic nods to the minimalists and pal William S. Burroughs) has helped the disc weather the passage of time remarkably well. It's less a document of the early 1980s than it is a dark glimpse of the future recorded at the dawn of the Reagan era.
Anderson's ingenious move, musically, was utilizing the vocoder not as a trick but as a melodic tool. It's the first thing you hear on Big Science, looped in "From the Air" like some bizarre man-machine synth. The rest of the track revolves around a circular pattern of blurted sax figures and hypnotic drums. There's virtually nothing about it that screams its age as Anderson intones a wry announcement from a (caveman) pilot of a plummeting flight. "There is no pilot," she speaks. "You are not alone. Standby. This is the time. And this is the record of the time." It's a metaphor for every frightening thing about 20th (and now 21st century) living you can think of, and in its spare way it's enough to scare you silly. http://www.pitchforkmedia.com/article/record_review/44356-big-science