From The Desk Of Shearwater’s Jonathan Meiburg: Laurie Anderson’s “Home Of The Brave”

Shearwater’s Jet Plane And Oxbow is an album that looks backward—to the recording technologies and sounds of the early ’80s—in order to interrogate the present and to contemplate the future. Shearwater’s moody, thoughtful style, built around Jonathan Meiburg’s dramatic, beautiful voice, turned toward rock with 2012’s Animal Joy, which now sounds like a stopover in the flight path toward Jet Plane. Meiburg used period-specific instruments; his guitar playing alludes to Adrian Belew’s work with David Bowie and Robert Fripp’s with Peter Gabriel; he integrates the stark sounds of Joy Division and early New Order. But the goal wasn’t nostalgia. Jet Plane doesn’t sound retro, nor does it sound like an homage. The allusions are there to create a sonic parallel to our time. Meiburg will be guest editing all week. Read our new Shearwater feature.


Meiburg: For my money, this is the greatest art-rock concert film of the 1980s. It’s a little like Stop Making Sense but better in many ways; it places you not just on the stage but inside Laurie Anderson’s head, and it twists, mocks and celebrates the conventions of a rock show to the point that it becomes a completely new animal.

Anderson’s band of equally whimsical and brilliant performers look like they’re having the time of their lives: Guitarist Adrian Belew feasts on his guitar with a knife and fork, criminally underexposed keyboardist and singer Joy Askew stops setting up a miniMoog to take a phone call from Anderson (who’s just across the stage), and percussion wizard David Van Tieghen doesn’t mind playing drums on stilts, using sticks the size of baseball bats, or knocking over a stack of cardboard boxes instead of playing a fill.

At one point William S. Burroughs even turns up to dance a tango with Anderson, lit in a way that makes him look like he’s gone black-and-white in a world of color. Laurie herself is on fire, all-singing, all-dancing, impenetrable but somehow vulnerable—and her startling entrance and stunning exit are funny, compelling and slightly eerie, the whole show in miniature. The first time I saw it, I watched it again right away.