Brian Eno is MORE DARK THAN SHARK
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"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno

Dusted JUNE 12, 2005 - by Bill Meyer

BRIAN ENO: ANOTHER DAY ON EARTH

It's been a long time since Brian Eno made a song-based album: thirteen years if you consider the subliminal chants and scraps of dialogue buried in Nerve Net's grooves to be songs, or fifteen if you go back to Wrong Way Up, his collaboration with John Cale. It'd be foolish to expect an artist as restless as Eno to simply cough up another Baby's On Fire or St. Elmo's Fire or The River, but not unfair to expect him to match their quality, and on that score this record is a disappointment. While there's no disputing the attractiveness of its well-polished recording - it'll be used to test a lot of new-stereo purchases in the coming year - it's patchy and even, in places, disturbingly adult-contemporary.

The record kicks off promisingly with This, whose percolating percussion and soaring, gospel-tinged melody would have fit well on Wrong Way Up. There's an appealing yearning quality to Eno's singing that suits the kaleidoscopic lyric, and some nice, fluid guitar work, too. But the next track, And Then So Clear, flies way off course. If there's one thing we should be able to expect from Eno, it's that he'll exercise good judgment regarding the qualities of sounds; pitch-shifting his voice so it sounds like Cher's on Do You Believe In Life After Love? is an unforgivable gaffe, no matter how pretty the bed of rounded guitar and keyboard tones. Later, a similar effect mars Bottomliners. Less tragic, but still regrettable, is the needlessly busy slap bass on Under, a soulful song that would have benefited from less bottom-end action and more vocal presence. Other tracks are pleasant enough, but so soft and slow that the words are no more assertive than bits of tapioca in a nice but forgettable pudding.

Eno's rationale for returning to the form is that lyric-based music challenges him and instrumental music does not. Fair enough, but if Eno had something to say, he really ought to have delivered his lines with a bit more force and respect.

The record's not a complete bust: How Many Worlds has a lovely string arrangement; Bone Bomb is one of the odder and more intriguing death songs I've heard in recent years; Passing Over has some attractively dark timbres and a welcome dose of rhythmic tension; and the title song captures an air of commingled resignation, hope, and gratitude.

But a master brewer should be able to come up with more than a half-full glass after a decade and a half; with that in mind, Another Day On Earth is small beer.


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