It's not nearly as poppy as "Strange Angels", but the multimedia performance artist's second solo album is much more full of life than the stark, dystopian soundscapes featured on "Big Science". This time, the backdrop to her half-spoken storytelling is a jungly ambience full of twittering and bubbling sounds. It has a clear 1980s feel, laden with synth tweakery and twitchy percussion, an extravagant but tasteful showcase for the muso's favourite electronic gadget of the start of the decade, the Fairlight.
Perky opener "Sharkey's Day" is fuelled by Latin percussion, horns and Adrian Belew's distinctive guitar licks, before descending to the jungle undergrowth for "Langue d'Amour". The minimal Japanese sketching of "Kokoku" is pretty enough that it manages to avoid world music fetishism. "Blue Lagoon" is backed with some lovely synth glitter, Eno-style ambient floats, and vocoder "gollum" noises reminiscent of another Anderson-aided album, Jean-Michel Jarre's "Zoolook".
It's not all parrots and monkeys though. Anderson's chillier, mechanical side is represented by "Gravity's Angel", influenced by Thomas Pynchon's impenetrable novel "Gravity's Rainbow". The clanging synths and angular percussion are a reminder of the new-wavey stuff that Peter Gabriel was doing in his third album. And guess who's on backing vocals here? Later, they do an official duet, the jerky, offbeat pop-song "Excellent Birds", which also appeared on Gabriel's "So". Another arty collaborator is William S. Burroughs, who lends a sarcastic voiceover to the slap-bassy reprise "Sharkey's Night".
"Mister Heartbreak" is firmly on the sparkling side of what people did in the 1980's, and Anderson's colourful narratives retain a human touch amidst its uninhibited production and splurge of electronic effects.
September 13, 2005