Donal Dineen’s Sunken Treasure: Talk Talk’s ‘The Laughing Stock’
The album shows what magic can happen if bands have the talent and daring to push boundaries
It is impossible to separate The Laughing Stock from The Colour of Spring and Spirit of Eden, its predecessors in a trilogy that were closing chapters in the Talk Talk tale.
Together they represent something unique in modern music. The band used their success to fuel a journey into sound that very few aspire to making or have the means or talent to undertake.
The first two steps away from their synth pop roots brought them to rich pastures but their last move was more audacious. Laughing Stock is worlds from where they started. The sparseness of the landscape is striking but no less remarkable a place.
The atmosphere is dark and otherworldly but all manner of hidden magic hangs in its rarefied air. How they ended up in an environment of their own creation is a lesson in committing to painstaking endeavour along the artistic road less travelled.
Apart from musical riches amassed, there are lessons in how they went about it. If it’s about the journey, then Talk Talk’s narrative arc should be studied with precision. It takes a giant leap of imagination to comprehend the scope of their achievement let alone their astounding ability to evolve and transform well beyond logical progression.
The record has six tracks but it’s really one suite that changes mood like weather. The palette of instrumentation is extensive but attention to arrangements makes it feel uncluttered. The ebb and flow of dynamics is meticulously calibrated. There are so many elements and yet everything is in its right place.
Mark Hollis’ voice is the golden thread that holds the rich tapestry of sound together. He is a commanding presence but an air of resignation pervades the hymnal passages which punctuate the cacophonous storms. Their work was done. They were always bound to go out with a whisper.