In partnership with

Laurie Anderson - Big Science

2010-01-13 10:24
Big Science

No. Laurie Anderson actually penned her apocalyptic political parable "O Superman" back in 1981. That an answering machine message inspired by 19th century French composer Jules Massenet's "O Souverain", Napoleon's Waterloo, and America's first Iran nightmare actually charted at #2 in the UK at the time is still astonishing.

A highlights package of her 270-minute performance-art pop opera, United States, Big Science remains a creepy, yet curiously consolatory critique of the socio-political paranoia lurking beneath the American Dream. Sure, the squirting saxophone and tribal percussion of "From the Air", and the absurdly funky techno-rock hybrid of "Example #22" channel the cyber electro Pop Art strategies of say, Brian Eno and Kraftwerk into disquieting future-ambient implosions.

Yet, like her heroes Yoko Ono and William Burroughs, Anderson also isn't averse to having a laugh – her stream of consciousness soundbites on "Walking & Falling" and "Let X=X" wear a cosmically blank shrug that's almost perversely funny.

To celebrate the album's 25th anniversary, a remastered version featuring brand new liner notes, a bonus track, "Walk the Dog" (the B-Side of the original "O Superman" single), as well as the "O Superman" video was released on 18 June 2007 by Nonesuch/Elektra Records.

 Watch "O Superman"

Science fact
The album peaked at # 29 on the UK Top 20 in 1982. And Stateside? 124.
Several undeground hip-hop artists have found Big Science a source of inspiration. Mr. Lif sampled "From the Air" in his post-9/11 song "Home of the Brave" off his Emergency Rations EP. Cannibal Ox's "Raspberry Fields" boosts a few beats from "Sweaters." cLOUDDEAD's "This about the City" contains a sample from the song "Big Science." And Cut Chemist sliced and diced some strings and things from "O Superman" into his song "Spat."
"Richard Pryor she ain't" was the 'Dean of Rock Critics', Robert Christgau's review summation.

"Hello? Is anybody home? Well, you don't know me, but I know you. And I've got a message to give to you. Here come the planes. So you better get ready" warns a menacing female monotone over virally repetitive synthesiser tones. Aw shucks, are the Yanks still milking their post-Twin-Towered trauma?

What to read next: Kalahari

Galamatias 2010/01/31 4:32 PM
  • Rating:
Oh wow - now we're talking! With the exceptions of Patti Smith (whose HORSES deserves as much praise) and Joni Mitchell (whose career is the ultimate female artist's primer) Laurie Anderson is the most amazing woman in pop music. And yes I'm aware that she's not a pop diva: she demands to be assessed on her Mind. From the Air, Born, Never Asked and O Superman are still as otherworldly as ever (not to mention funny.) And in case you didn't know, she didn't stop there - check out the poppy Mister Heartbreak or her Anthology: Talk Normal. You will never be the same (and just a few mintes of some tracks clears the room of Beyonce or Madonna fans in no time!)She may be The Ugly One With the Jewels, but I for one am enraptured.
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.