Most of my awareness of Laurie Anderson comes from Big Science and her relationship with Lou Reed. I’ve never listened to United States Live and really haven’t encountered much else of her work. (I’ve definitely encountered something else other than Big Science and some live stuff, but I can’t remember off the top of my head.
This is meditation on death – and, oddly, the surveillance state – inspired by the death of Anderson’s dog but, also, obliquely, by her husband’s death. Like the other work of Anderson’s I’ve encountered, it’s episodic and almost feels like a visual album, rather than a film.
Reading a little bit about it, it seems she’s repurposed some of the content from earlier work, which is something I think she’s done in the past. I always find that weird when it happens on albums. If I knew the other work, I’m not sure how I’d feel. But I don’t know them so I guess it doesn’t matter.
The bigger issue for me is that it has a bit stream-of-consciousness. I don’t always see the connection between the images, the words on the screen – yes, there are words on the screen – and the disparate topics. That’s sort of the point of these types of things, in the sense of weaving a portrait of aspects of life together that we might not always connect, but I’m not sure it coheres as much as Anderson thinks it does.
But I still found it reasonably interesting. And I can’t deny I was moved when the Reed song came on at the end and I suddenly realized it wasn’t just about her dog.