Whiskers on roses & raindrops on kittens: II. Adagio

Posted by Job O Brother, August 6, 2007 01:16pm | Post a Comment

2.) “The Ugly One With the Jewels”

The above is a title to an album by Laurie Anderson. It was released in 1995.

Anyone who knows me knows how much I revere this artist. Many of you are at least aware of her “hit”, the eerie and off-putting “O Superman (For Massenet)”, which unexpectedly made #2 on the UK Charts in 1981, thanks largely to its championing by the late, great John Peel.

Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha: Laurie Anderson

While most of her albums will inevitably split a room of people in two camps, with either side feeling passionate of how her songs make them feel, “The Ugly One With the Jewels” is one of her most accessible and entertaining albums, and many people who would not otherwise appreciate her more “difficult music” will still enjoy this album.

It is not my favorite – for me, nothing trumps her epic work “United States” (which is available as a live performance album consisting of four compact discs). Still, “Ugly One” is magical to me; it’s like walking through a dream, awake.

The album consists almost entirely of spoken word; stories that are autobiographical. It was recorded live in London for what sounds like a perfect audience.

Anderson’s life is one worth hearing about. Few people have a taste for adventure like her, and her droll, dry style of story-telling on this record shows-off her comedic skill, something she values in herself that others rarely remark on, mostly due, I’m sure, to her being of the avant-garde.

*Sigh...* - Andy Kaufman

She tells stories about her close friendship to one of my other “favorites”, the comedian/performance artist, Andy Kauffman; a story about how, one very hot day, she decided to hitchhike to the North Pole, and did; a story about meeting a Balinese prince and his entertaining her by showing her racecars and hours of footage of his father’s funeral.

"Did I tell you the one about the fun Iraqi arms dealer?" - Laurie performs

Her low voice, accompanied by atmospheric synthesizer and samplings of small animals makes for a hypnotic experience. It is sometimes poignant, sometimes hilarious, and always intriguing. It’s the perfect soundtrack to an afternoon nap, with all the curtains drawn, or as a lullaby before bedtime. It is the opposite of what you want to be blasting from your iPod while you bench-press free-weights.

At some point, I assume I will write a more thorough blog about Laurie Anderson, but I wanted to isolate this one album as something that, regardless of my mood, causes me to melt.

Relevant Tags

John Peel (1), Andy Kaufman (4), Laurie Anderson (13), Ipod (21)