Mojo JUNE 2004 - by David Buckley


Here Come The Warm Jets / Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) / Another Green World / Before And After Science

Pretentious? Moi? Eno makes art-rock cool with a first wave of re-issues: The Early Works.

To many, Brian Eno is the most brilliant fraud in pop: a self-proclaimed poseur, and a charlatan in a pop world already populated by the inauthentic and the contrived, he took pop as pretence to scarily bizarre heights. He couldn't really play any instruments, his singing was weak, initially it seemed most of his ideas had been borrowed from the '60s avant-gardists. Yet his first four albums helped set the agenda for all that was cool and interesting in intelligent rock music in the '70s.

Roxy Music was never Eno's baby - he didn't write or sing the songs - but journos were besotted by him. A huge self-publicist and showman extraordinaire, he rattled Ferry's fragile ego and had to go. Roxy lost the sonic weirdness, we gained Here Come The Warm Jets, Eno's first solo album. All the suppressed oddness welling up inside him under Ferry's rock-solid hold on Roxy Music came spilling out. It maybe a cliché, but Eno's debut really does sound like the future : Needle In The Camel's Eye is the first British punk song; Baby's On Fire is apparently the sound of bassist John Wetton tuning up; Dead Finks Don't Talk is the sound of The Bonzos taking the piss out of Bryan Ferry.

Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), released in 1974, consists of ten completely bonkers songs, with Eno as front-man. Silly songs, quirky playing, bizarre chord changes are all there, but it seems less ground-breaking than Warm Jets.

However, his third solo album saw the absract overpower the figurative with devastating results - Another Green World (1975) actually sounds as if it's beamed in from another musical universe. This re-master not only picks out the strangeness in the original production, but also reveals what sound like completely new parts, hidden in the original. And there are songs of true beauty: Sky Saw and I'll Come Running, both classic art-rock songs. On St. Elmo's Fire, Eno apparently based Robert Fripp's guitar solo on the noise made by an electrical generator in London'd Natural Science Museum, while Golden Hours has a classic Eno lyric: I can't see the lines I used to think I could read between. The big shift comes with the birth of ambient on In Dark Trees, The Big Ship and Becalmed and the one minute forty-two seconds that is Another Green World, the signature tune to BBC's Arena arts programme. Eno later told Lester Bangs that he got the idea of removing the narrator as the centre of the music. There were many stunning moments to come in Eno's oeuvre, but Another Green World remains his masterpiece, arguably surpassing anything put out by his former band. Before And After Science now sounds like he's taking breath before the next push forward. The catchy Backwater could have come from one of his earlier albums, although No One Receiving and Here He Comes are simply great pop tunes.

After these albums, Eno left pop almost completely for years, and that's a shame. A hugely under-rated melodicist, a brilliantly surreal lyricist, his songs have such charm, and such brave, dark magic