The Joup Friday Album: Laurie Anderson – Big Science

Album cover to Big Science by Laurie AndersonWith the post-millennium lovefest surrounding everyone’s rediscovery and love of all things Devo, I’m kind of surprised and disappointed the same critical examination isn’t extending to Laurie Anderson.

“Big Science” was Anderson’s debut on Warner Brothers in 1982, and while she never found mainstream success in the United States, one of the singles, “O Superman (for Massenet),” reached #2 on the U.K. charts.

Avant-garde (read: uncategorizable): It’s not pop, disco, classical, rock, rap, metal, country, or even electronic. Anderson’s velvet alto offers random narration over most of the album tracks, which pogo from dark gothic weirdness to sparse synthesized space proselytizing.

I discovered this album as a weird, fat, vegetarian bookworm in a sea of farm bros and poofy banged cliques. My entry was “O Superman,” found on a random one-off mixtape so often found for sale in the dollar stores. It was the late ‘80s, and all I knew was I wasn’t ever going to be invited to barn keggers or make the varsity sports team. Mainly because I loved to hole up by myself for hours, write in my journal, and play cards, listening to music.

“O Superman” immediately appealed to me. At the time, I hadn’t seen “2001” or knew anything about space glam Bowie, but the track transported me. The intro, a female voice simply intoning the phrase “ah” over and over, morphing into Anderson’s cheerful phone message re-enactment, was mind blowing. Mainly because of its linear, cheerful embracement of the nonsensical, “O Superman” is a quiet ode to the ridiculousness of life. Nothing makes sense, yay!

Dovetailing with the realization we are all specks of galaxy dust, “Big Science” comforted me in a way nothing else did at the time. The Internet was yet to burst forth, and no one was telling me that it would get better via viral video. But Laurie Anderson’s opus felt like an encouraging hug from a cool, child-free aunt, encouraging me to boost my weirdness factor and break the knob off at 13.

That said, much like fine Belgian chocolate and American politics, “Big Science” is best consumed in small, concentrated doses. Enjoy the ride, and be sure to swallow.

Thanks for the add, Mr. Baker. Tagging Chester Whelks because hey, cool name.

Melissa Fowler

Melissa Fowler

Smart, opinionated, crabby, fortysomething who loves to word. Hates squirrels; rampant stupidity in the form of willful ignorance, bigotry and intolerance (yeah, reconcile THAT); and is starting to realize that Mike Judge is indeed a soothsayer.

One Response to The Joup Friday Album: Laurie Anderson – Big Science
  1. Shawn C Baker

    Shawn C Baker Reply

    Awesome first entry Melissa! I’ve never heard of this but you had me at “…pogo from dark gothic weirdness to sparse synthesized space proselytizing”.

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