Essentially for the most loyal Talk Talk fan only, Missing Pieces compiles the three singles released off the band's final LP, the boundlessly experimental and beautiful Laughing Stock. It was odd that anything off that record was aimed at the pop charts, and it remains baffling when reminded of it ten years after the fact. It could be said that Talk Talk is to post-rock what Neil Young is to grunge, since they were one of the first to break free from rock constructs while maintaining the basic instrumental set-up. The album versions of "New Grass" and "Ascension Day" easily surpass the average single length, while a shortened "outtake" version of the hypnotic "After the Flood" remains otherworldly with five minutes trimmed from the original incarnation. Both of the proper B-sides -- the only genuinely "new" Talk Talk material for most fans -- are instrumentals. Neither one is too remarkable, but "5.09" is worth mentioning for its collage-like manipulation of random pieces from the album sessions. Elements of nearly every album track pop up, including some of the percussion from "Taphead" and contorted guitar snatched from "New Grass." A weird inclusion completes the disc: Mark Hollis' minimalist piano contribution to Allinson/Brown's AV1 from 1998. (On that record, Hollis performed under the pseudonym of John Cope, named after the sound recordist who worked with the likes of Alfred Hitchcock and Cecil B. DeMille.) Time has been good to the material collected here, evident through the classic status accorded to Laughing Stock from critics and musicians alike, not to mention the outright sampling (Unkle's "Rabbit in Your Headlights") or worshipful cloning (Catherine Wheel's "Thunderbird") of Lee Harris' sensitive, tingly drumming. This collection might not be essential, but anything to satiate diehard cravings and increase the profile of Laughing Stock should be welcomed.
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AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman
feat: Mark Hollis