Laurie Anderson began putting together the pieces of Homeland
when W was in the midst of his presidency. The CD deals with the Iraq War, the bank bailouts, global warming, and our consumer culture, sometimes all in one song. “Only An Expert”
is the clear stand out. With its disco beats, Anderson easily chides our culture that listens to experts only, no matter how wrong they are. If an expert tells us that global warming or the housing crisis does not exist, well, by golly, we must believe them. She does so with her special humor. She points out that a person may want to be on Oprah, but does not have a problem. That person may need to find an expert on problems, otherwise, that person will be found out to not have a problem. It’s a seven-and-a-half minute head-spinner of a song.
Most of the rest of Homeland
deals with the same issues in a less blatant manner. The CD opens with “Transitory Life.” The song opens with the chanting sounds of Tuvan throat singers
and igil players. Combined with Anderson’s electric violin, it is a sound that symbolizes the birth of mankind. In what feels like random musings, Anderson expounds on the beginnings and ends of various lives. Heady stuff made palpable by her musical stylings.
Anderson’s alter ego, Fenway Bergamot (so named by Anderson’s husband, Lou Reed) also makes an appearance. For much of her 30-year career, Anderson would electronically alter her voice through a bass filter to create what she called “the voice of authority.” This voice now has a name and an appearance, which graces the cover of the CD. Imagine a badly strung-out Robert Goulet and you’ll get the idea. Anderson has even taken to performing interviews and making public appearances as this alter ego. He is featured on “Another Day in America,” in which he waxes philosophical about the concept of time and the state of America. It is a commentary that Anderson fans will find fascinating, while those not on board may find it tedious and pompous.
But Anderson is not in the business of trying to please everyone. She simply wants to create. Yes, she has things to say, but she wants to say them as interestingly as possible. She can write a heart-breakingly beautiful song such as “Thinking of You,” and then have no problem giving her blind, rat terrier, Lolabelle, a piano solo at the end of “Bodies in Motion.” She is a poet, a musician, an innovator. As much as she hates the term, she is truly a performance artist.
What is most amazing is that the Laurie Anderson of today still sounds a lot like the Laurie Anderson of 30 years ago. She is political, poignant, funny, engaging, clever, and musically challenging. She breaks no new musical ground here, but she does not need to. Quality never goes out of style.