Picks and Pans Review: Strange Angels

updated 01/22/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/22/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

Laurie Anderson

Anderson became the premier '80s performance artist with stage shows that melded electronic music with story telling, giant slide projections, shadow play, vaudeville and gadgetry. Her fifth record finds her at a tenuous turning point.

Challenging her own style, Anderson has stripped some of the dramatic effects from her current show and focuses more on music. This album, including excerpts from that show, reflects Anderson's new priorities. Her vocals often used to sound like musical talking; now she sings sweetly and writes eminently tuneful melodies.

Anderson toys with pop music at her own risk, sometimes robbing her work of the substance that has made her so appealing. She used to pare away her lyrics, leaving simple phrases that bounced off each other provocatively. Here she delivers lyrics that fall short of her intended irony and sometimes sound just dumb.

Strange Angels still sounds wonderful at times. Gentle, soothing melodies and lyrics project an awe for life's mysteries. If there were such a thing as good new age music, this would qualify. (Warner Bros.)

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