Delusions Of Adequacy MAY 2003 - by Dw Dunphy


Here Come The Warm Jets

You know his work. Chances are, you own at least one recording with which he's been involved, having been producer and collaborator with David Bowie, Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel and U2, just to drop some names you would recognize. What you may not have known was that Brian Eno was a performer as well, and that in the early 1970s he decided to part company with suave-rock combo Roxy Music to record something slightly more disturbing... Something titled Here Come The Warm Jets.

Before we go any further, it's important to understand the mind of Eno. For example, we'll take the most notable track from the disc, Baby's On Fire. Of course, popular music is full of paeans to horny women in heat (from Fever to Burning Up), but this is literally different. Baby is on fire, and surrounding her, not helping to put out the flames, are shady photographers, a pair of cigarette recyclers, dregs, droogs, and you, the listener. Yes, by merely playing the song, you become complicit to the event. What's worse, once you've heard Robert (King Crimson) Fripp's incendiary guitar solo midway through, you're probably going to take the bait and play the song again.

Ladies and gentlemen, the mind of Brian Eno!

Rock has a long tradition of merry tricksters, but seldom has it been so apparent that the ringmaster is not laughing with you. Songs like Some Of Them Are Old, with its slow, military march form and vocal harmonies, seem somber and appropriate until the lyrics betray the tone. The sonic invention on the closing, title cut and Driving Me Backwards sound more at home on alt-rock experiments from the '90s than from the '70s, and I'll bet the farm that Trans Am nicked some of the musical degeneration concepts found on Surrender To The Night from Dead Finks Don't Talk. I won't even try to speculate on what The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch is, but the narrator's partner would apparently prefer to sleep with it than him.

It would be easy to dismiss the recording as the musical rantings of a lunatic when faced with the prospect of success with Roxy Music and a long-term commitment to listen to Bryan Ferry's disaffected crooning suddenly imploding in weirdness. However, Eno has surrounded himself with fine musicians, and the compositions aren't harsh to the ear. His voice is pliable and can go from the sharp snapping of Blank Frank to the harmonies from the aforementioned Some Of Them Are Old and on to the sing-speak and histrionics of Dead Finks Don't Talk with ease. Each song sounds unique, and yet they're all distinctively Eno.

Here Come The Warm Jets has often been mislabeled as glam rock, but glam was always about androgynous debauchery and wild nightlife, the hedonistic charge off the sputtering sparks from the previous decade's flower children. Cindy Tells Me owes more to the decidedly Caucasian flavor of '50s pop than it does the raunchy 'blooze'-inflected stomp of T.Rex. It's doubtful that Marc Bolan would have dared touch it with a ten-foot pole.

The recording remains a significant example of an artist who decided, against the dictates of commerce, the marketplace, sense, and reason, to do whatever the hell he wanted to. The combination of accessible melodies with caustic and sometimes demented wordplay can be found in the work of performers like Jim O'Rourke, Erik Sanko, and any punk troubadour worth the salt in his wounds. So too, the inventive use of sound effects, noise, and the dreaded guitar drone is almost commonplace today.

But then again, judging from his prolific mega-producer work ethic, so is Brian Eno.