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Laughing Stock: Songs For the Future

Songs For the Future is the sixth studio album by Norwegian neo-prog band Laughing Stock, a very prolific prog act if we take in consideration that they have released 5 full-length albums (one is a re-recording with alternate track list) in a 5 years period… but that seems to be a norm within a lot of bands from the Scandinavia… and that’s a good thing for us, music lovers. Without any major changes since its formation, the prog trio is comprised of multi-instrumentalist Jan Mikael Sørensen on vocals, guitars, bass, drums, and keyboards, Håvard Enge on vocals, keyboards, flute, banjo and strings, and Jan Erik Kirkevold Nilsen on vocals and guitars.

This album might be more on the pop side of prog than their previous work, in part thanks to the addition of guest musicians Colin Moulding (XTC) on bass and vocals, Colin Bass (Camel) on bass and vocals, and Billy Sherwood (Yes) also on bass and vocals… musicians that while pertaining to the prog scene, they also coincide in having a ton of melodic and pop sensibilities. The concept and idea of the album also contributes to the easy-listening result and simpler music, that music that we as youngsters fell in love with and helped shaped our music taste and the direction we would follow as musicians or simply music lovers.

The simplicity is evident from the get-go with the opener “For the Boys”, a corky Canterbury-inspired song where Moulding contributes with his warmth vocals, clean basslines, and lyrics very easy to relate to, especially for me and my contemporaries, a cool opener. In both the title track and in “Something Happens” I find some commercial sounding Pink Floyd inspiration, closer to the sound of previous albums from the band like The Island, all with a dash of Tears for Fears, beautiful vocal harmonies, a simple blue print but with very cool arrangements. “The Other Side” finds Colin Bass taking care of the vocals, a laid-back melancholic and atmospheric song that relies basically on the beautiful guitar work and the distinctive melodic bass playing by the aforementioned musician, a song that preludes the most mellow moment of the record, a moment that intensifies with the follow-up “December”, a piano driven song that is as cold as its name, a little too cold for me. “Like Home” is the beginning of what I consider the best part of the album, the return to that Floyd-Fears mix so unique and involving, simple but complex at the same time, the type of song that better describes what the trio is about, and that gets even further visited with “The Ocean”, my ultimate favorite. Sherwood’s contribution is pristine as expected, both in his vocals and groovy symphonic basslines, an unquestionable enhancer to the record.

“Changed” does exactly that, it changes my mood and my engagement with the album, the clarity of the previous songs gets replaced by a more compressed sounding instrumentation, at the end rescued by the always phenomenal guitar work, although oddly fading before giving birth to some clarity again on “Night of the Thousand Stars”, one of the shortest songs on the album, with narrative vocals and a great acoustic-electric guitars tandem. On “It is Time” the 80’s inspiration becomes even more evident, now adding some Duran Duran to the Floyd-Fears mix, it is cool but far from the best moments of the album, at least for me, I prefer the more up-tempo stuff here. “Blue Grass” takes that same formula and goes even deeper into the mud, fortunately it flies rapidly and leads the way to the last song, “Stay a While”, perhaps one of the more experimental tunes on this album but still a little far from what I consider the best. SFTF is solid record and a enjoyable listen, cheers.

Track list:
  1. For the Boys (4:09)
  2. Songs for the Future (4:41)
  3. Something Happens (4:26)
  4. The Other Side (4:37)
  5. December (3:53)
  6. Like Home (4:39)
  7. The Ocean (3:29)
  8. Changed (3:19)
  9. Night of the Thousand Stars (2:42)
  10. It is Time (7:35)
  11. Blue Grass (2:15)
  12. Stay Awhile (4:08)

Added: May 17th 2023
Reviewer: Jose Antonio Marmol
Related Link: Band @ Bandcamp
Hits: 1121
Language: english

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Laughing Stock: Songs For the Future
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2023-05-17 14:28:25
My Score:

Both the press release and much of the online chat about Laughing Stock have them marked out as ‘prog/art rock’ or ‘pop/prog rock’ and while, on this, my first encounter with them, I can kind of see why, I personally would have put Songs For The Future down as 80s pop with a 60s heart. That in itself isn’t a problem though, so if you like the thought of early-mid era Pink Floyd married to The Beatles and then played by XTC and Talk Talk, then Songs For The Future may well be for you.

Across the twelve tracks this album contains, three guest singers appear, with Colin Moulding (XTC) helping out on album opener “For The Boys” - a lament to times gone by where the lads headed to the football at the same time every Saturday (thanks Sky! (not)) more for the atmosphere and banter than the game itself. It’s Colin Bass (Camel) who turns up on “The Other Side”, where the vibe and tone is kept contained and minimal in the way that say, Tim Bowness might, whereas it’s Billy Sherwood (of the current edition of Yes) who rumbles his way through the even more spartan “The Ocean”.

However these tracks are only part of the story, this Norwegian trio, who I believe have taken something of a left turn with this release compared to their previous albums, capable of ploughing their own furrow on the almost but not quite jaunty “Night Of The Thousand Stars”, or fabulously atmospheric synth driven “It Is Time”. That said, I do find Songs For The Future to be just a little too withdrawn, or maybe even dowdy, to be the kind of album I could see myself listening to often, the slow pace being just a little too unrelenting for my own personal taste. It’s certainly no laughing stock, but then it’s no laugh a minute either.

I’d say this album is interesting more than it is essential, but if the above mentioned influences pique your interest, then I’d suggest you investigate further.

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