Home Read Classic Album Review: Laurie Anderson | Life On A String

Classic Album Review: Laurie Anderson | Life On A String

The avant-garde veteran tries (but fails) to hook you with a whale of an album.

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This came out in 2001 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):

 


Call her Ishmael. Much of Laurie Anderson’s Life On A String — her first album in six years — comes from her stage show Songs And Stories Of Moby Dick.

Which explains why so many cuts are about fishing and whales and the sea, which must represent life and love and death and obsession and whatnot in her performance-art experimental universe. What it doesn’t explain is the songs about America and New York and broken love affairs, which probably still represent love and death and obsession and whatnot but don’t quite go with the other stuff. Along with being disjointed, Life can also feel surprisingly predictable musically, as Anderson sticks to her familiar palette of neo-classical arrangements, ambient electronics and vocals that are either angelically harmonized or drily spoken. Life has its moments — notably Dark Angel, a lush and mischievous classical-jazz collaboration with Van Dyke Parks that is the CD’s high point and centrepiece. It’ll hook you. But much of the time, Life On A String feels like one that got away from Anderson.