Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Laurie Anderson: Big Science [Warner Bros., 1982]
Like protest singers, novelty artists put too much strain on the words. Anderson's performance, as they say, is richer and subtler than Si Kahn's or John Prine's. But her music is more, as they say, minimal, which diminishes replay potential. Don't get me wrong--she achieves moments of humor so exquisite (timing and timbre of the pilot's chuckles on "From the Air," for instance) that I just have to hear them again, and when I do I enjoy the rest. But while Anderson's alienated patriotic (and romantic) affection is clearly her own invention, it's just as clearly a variant on your basic boho Americanism (and sexuality)--a variant that adds only a voice, not words, by which I mean ideas. Richard Pryor she ain't. A-