At Home He's a Tourist

He fills his head with culture/ He gives himself an ulcer.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Robert Christgau Word of the Day

mel·lif·lu·ous adj. 1. Flowing with sweetness or honey. 2. Smooth and sweet: “polite and cordial, with a mellifluous, well-educated voice” (H.W. Crocker III). (

Laurie Anderson Strange Angels [Warner Bros., 1989]

Anderson feels powerless, a speck of dust at the speed of light, and these are the bleakest songs she's ever written. Positing progress as the force that prevents history from righting itself, she looks the death of nature in its prosthetic eye and sees bad changes coming a lot sooner than, for instance, equal pay for women, which she calculates is due along about 3888. But she also feels connected to the pop firmament, often constructing her lyrics like a human sampler, and this is the most mellifluous music she's ever recorded. She's taken voice lessons to match the tunes she's writing, and hired sidepeople--notably Graceland bassist Bakithi Khumalo, whose fretless flow unifies the four lithest tracks--who she knows will add a savvy, sensual sheen to her most cerebral constructs. Some find these two pop moves a mark of compromise; I find them pleasingly complex. A soothing glimpse of the end of the world. A (


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