Laughing Stock (album)

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Laughing Stock
Studio album by Talk Talk
Released 16 September 1991
Recorded September 1990–April 1991 at Wessex Studios in Highbury, London
Genre Post-rock, art rock, jazz
Length 43:29
Label Verve, Polydor
Producer Tim Friese-Greene
Talk Talk chronology
Spirit of Eden
Laughing Stock

Laughing Stock is the fifth and final studio album by Talk Talk. Released in 1991, it was the only album the band released on the jazz-based Verve Records, after acrimoniously leaving EMI.

Like its predecessor, Spirit of Eden, the album featured improvised instrumentation from a large ensemble of musicians, including as many as seven violists on occasion, and the lyrical themes are often religious. The recording sessions have attained near-mythical status among underground music fans;[citation needed] Tape Op magazine ran an extensive article detailing the demanding recording sessions, marked by Mark Hollis' perfectionist tendencies, and his use of candles and incense to set the mood. Engineer Phill Brown stated that the album, like its predecessor, was "recorded by chance, accident, and hours of trying every possible overdub idea."[1] However, compared to prior Talk Talk albums, he goes on to note that "Laughing Stock is a different beast. I am very proud of the album, it's probably one of my best projects.... but I find it dark and claustrophobic."[1]

Original bass guitarist Paul Webb had left the band prior to recording, reducing Talk Talk to the duo of Lee Harris and Mark Hollis.


The cover art is by James Marsh, responsible for most of Talk Talk's artwork. Marsh initially painted a cover depicting a group of threatened birds forming the shape of a larger bird in flight over a desolate landscape. However, Hollis later felt the artwork should feature a tree, to create a visual connection to Spirit of Eden.[2]

The final cover featured the same birds in a spherical tree forming the shapes of the Earth's continents.

Later on, the first cover was used as the artwork for a three single box set called After the Flood.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating 5/5 stars[3]
AllMusic 5/5 stars[4]
NME 5/10[5]
Pitchfork Media 10/10[6]
Select 4/5 stars[7]
Sputnikmusic 5.0/5[8]
Treble (positive)[9]

Laughing Stock received critical acclaim.

In 1991, Select gave the album a rating of four out of five.[7] The review referred to it as an "exercise in self-indulgence and nothing more. If you refuse to enter their playground for the world-weary then that's fine by them." as well as calling the album "perverse genius".[7]

Pitchfork Media listed Laughing Stock as 11th best album of the 1990s, describing the album as "a record that makes its own environment and becomes more than the sum of its sounds."[10]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Myrrhman"   Mark Hollis 5:33
2. "Ascension Day"   Hollis 6:00
3. "After the Flood"   Tim Friese-Greene, Hollis 9:39
4. "Taphead"   Hollis 7:39
5. "New Grass"   Hollis 9:40
6. "Runeii"   Hollis 4:58

There is a brief, untitled instrumental fragment preceding "Taphead" at the beginning of side 2 on the LP/cassette version. This is present on the US CD, but the UK omits it with "After The Flood" crossfading into "Taphead".

2011 Vinyl Reissue[edit]

On 11 October 2011, Ba Da Bing Records released Laughing Stock on vinyl, the first time that the album has been issued on vinyl in the US.[11]


Additional personnel