Monday, November 9, 2009

Brian Eno 1: Here Come The Warm Jets

Musicians often say they feel most creative when trying something new on their proficient instrument or attempting to bring something coherent out of an instrument they’ve never played before. Unfamiliarity with the rules, so to speak, frees them from sticking to a prescribed structure, and lets them try things they wouldn’t had they “known better”.
Brian Eno’s genius has been that his instrument of proficiency is the recording medium itself, and by using musical implements in various ways and then treating them in the mixing process, the end result on the listener’s home stereo has been some of the most influential music of the last thirty-odd years.
He first gained notoriety adding sound color to the performance of Roxy Music, and he soon after went “solo”, releasing records under his own name and as collaborations with other, similar thinking artists. Much of his output since the ‘70s has been under the guise of producer, working with such performers as David Bowie, Devo, Talking Heads, U2 and, most recently, James and Coldplay.
His first solo sojourn was an experiment with King Crimson’s Robert Fripp, with the guitarist soloing over tape loops controlled by Eno. Not too long afterward appeared Here Come The Warm Jets, a proper Eno solo album filled with ten tracks not too far removed from what people would expect from Roxy Music, a band that strove to marry the ‘50s and the ‘80s in the ‘70s.
Here Come The Warm Jets is an exciting collection of fractured pop songs, all performed by various musicians cast for each track as Eno saw fit. From the start, the lyrics seem almost secondary, existing only to prop up the tracks themselves. The opening “Needles In The Camel’s Eye” is propelled by a driving riff courtesy of guitarist Phil Manzanera and (especially) Chris Spedding. Indeed, on this track the words are inconsequential. “The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch” considers a love triangle with a man who can either breathe or fart fire, depending on what you’ve read. Fripp returns on “Baby’s On Fire”, a tour de force for his guitar. “Cindy Tells Me” is something of a doo-wop number translated to the N.O.W. generation, and a descending piano sequence takes “Driving Me Backwards” to the center groove.
A different piano takes over side two, with its longing to be “On Some Faraway Beach”. This track builds and builds, then recedes nearly to its starting point, followed by the rantings about “Blank Flank”, who served to bring the protagonists to submission. “Dead Finks Don’t Talk” seems to be another swipe at Bryan Ferry, and it degenerates into to the very basic “Some Of The Are Old”. The title track, supposedly an ode to urination, brings it all full circle with a driving beat much like the album opener.
Here Come The Warm Jets is a very satisfying slice of futuristic music that still seems anachronistic today. True to his acumen, it’s unclear as to how much of the finished product came from the spontaneous contributions of the players and what came from Eno’s own head. Whatever the genesis, it continues to be exciting listening.

Eno Here Come The Warm Jets (1973)—4

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