Laughing Stock (album)

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Laughing Stock
Laughing stock.jpg
Studio album by Talk Talk
Released 16 September 1991
Recorded September 1990 – April 1991
Studio Wessex Studios in Highbury, London
Genre Post-rock[1]
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."[2] 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."[2]

Bassist Paul Webb had left the band prior to recording, reducing Talk Talk to the duo of Hollis and drummer Lee Harris.[3]


The cover art was designed 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.[4] 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 Talk Talk's three-single box set After the Flood.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 5/5 stars[5]
NME 5/10[6]
Pitchfork Media 10/10[7]
Q 4/5 stars[8]
Select 4/5 medals[9]
Sputnikmusic 5/5[10]

In a contemporary review of Laughing Stock, Nick Griffiths of Select referred to the album 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".[9] Ian Cranna of Q noted that while the "melancholy mood, a rare thoughtfulness and the sense of sharing something deeply personal, together with the haunting, emotional quality of the understated music put Talk Talk heavily at odds with the commercial charts... the same qualities will ensure that even though Laughing Stock may lose Hollis some of his newly found friends, it will be valued long after such superficial quick thrills are forgotten."[8]

Retrospectively, 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."[11]

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.[citation needed] This is present on the US CD[citation needed], but the UK version 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.[12]


Additional personnel


  1. ^ "Talk Talk: Laughing Stock". Treble. Retrieved 6 April 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Brown, Phill (12 November 1998). "The Colour of EQing". Tape Op. Archived from the original on 10 June 2013. Retrieved 6 August 2015. 
  3. ^ Wallace, Wyndham (12 September 2011). "After The Flood: Talk Talk's Laughing Stock 20-Years On". The Quietus. Retrieved 6 April 2015. 
  4. ^ "Interview with James Marsh on his album cover work for Talk Talk". Album Cover Hall of Fame. 7 November 2012. Retrieved 6 April 2015. 
  5. ^ Ankeny, Jason. "Laughing Stock – Talk Talk". AllMusic. Retrieved 6 August 2015. 
  6. ^ "Laughing Stock". NME. Retrieved 6 April 2015. 
  7. ^ Harvell, Jess (21 October 2011). "Talk Talk / Mark Hollis: Laughing Stock / Mark Hollis". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 6 April 2015. 
  8. ^ a b Cranna, Ian (October 1991). "Cryptic". Q (London) (61). Retrieved 6 August 2015. 
  9. ^ a b Griffiths, Nick (October 1991). "Reviews New Albums". Select (London) (16): 76. 
  10. ^ Fisher, Tyler (27 June 2007). "Talk Talk – Laughing Stock". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved 6 April 2015. 
  11. ^ "Top 100 Albums of the 1990s; 20–11". Pitchfork Media. 17 November 2003. Retrieved 6 April 2015. 
  12. ^ "Mark Hollis and Talk Talk Re-release!". Ba Da Bing Records. 29 August 2011. Retrieved 6 August 2015.