Sid Smith's Postcards From The Yellow Room JUNE 1, 2005 - by Sid Smith


The bliss is back!

For all the art-games, strategising and punditry on anything from the Turner prize to voting Lib Deb, Brian Eno's latest album, Another Day On Earth, provides a timely reminder that the real secret to his peculiar success has always been his unerring sense of melody. Strip away the theories, concepts, futurology and Renaissance-man tags and what you're left with is someone who knows how to nail a first-rate song down and can do it with the pin-point accuracy of seasoned sharp-shooter.

Maybe it was all that doo-wop when he was a kid or maybe it comes from having rubbed satin and tat with Bryan Ferry when he was still writing decent tunes. Perhaps its hanging out with the Bowie's and Bono's of this world or almost any shining star in the cultural firmament of the last thirty years you might care to mention. Wherever he gets it from doesn't matter; having created a genre or two in his time, renovated numerous careers of the great and good as well as inspiring countless legions of artists around the globe, Brian Eno has nothing to prove.

Bright, joyful and at times exceptionally moving, much of the album basks in the mellifluous glow of Eno's multi-tracked voice. The shuffling upbeat grooves of Under (previously heard on the abandoned My Squelchy Life) and the ludicrously uplifting Just Another Day show Eno as a relaxed crooner out to enjoy himself.

Perhaps the album's crowning glory is the blissful And Then So Clear. It contains everything one might hope to encounter in Eno's music; lofty sonics, astute use of space, rich cadences and a drop-dead gorgeous resolution. Not for the first time in his career Eno somehow grasps the ineffable resulting in a track that is devastatingly effective and stirringly poignant. When it ends you don't know whether to laugh or cry. Originally intended as the album's ending where it would have provided an opulent closing statement in the manner of Spider And I, it's been re-sequenced and truncated acting now as a glacial comparison to the slow-burning heat of the album's opener, This.

Like the painter who captures the complexity of experience with a few brush strokes, so Eno is capable of invoking feelings and moods with a disarming and seductive simplicity that belies the detail and complexity of his processes. Going Unconscious and the tentative Long Way Down waft in and out of focus, interludes that gently usher us along to the plush Caught Between, a quirky ballad surrounded by a rattling, spinning environment and a droll solo that sounds like Robert Fripp crossed with Rolf Harris on Stylophone. He's having fun and enjoying himself and it shines though in abundance.

A somewhat darker edge creeps in with the nervous urgency of Passing Over. Following a pensive vocal, the brooding middle section contains a swarming backdrop of grinding, distorted guitars and an ominous tumbling echo-drenched piano solo. In an already tightly plotted drama, the real twist comes when Eno's vocals return. Augmented to a ring-modulated baritone rasp, he chillingly announces that the past is gone and can never be recollected. It's a genuinely unsettling moment. Bonebomb, (David Bowie's favourite cut apparently) also shares a jarring throbbing quality; lines recited by a female voice are scattered like seeds from which ideas and provocative correspondences burst and bloom.

How Many Worlds is an object lesson in Eno's other trademark skill - making a little go a long way. Here a looped Spanish guitar provides the brisk foundation for a song that asks questions about life with the naïve precision of an inquisitive child. Here, the luscious instrumental passage, partially reminiscent of Ascending from the Apollo album, captures Eno at his most yearning. The surging romanticism as the string section swells and falls away is without doubt one of the most breath-taking and accomplished moments in his recorded output.

Another Day On Earth represents the best of Eno's sound worlds, an eloquent, articulate collection combining in a triumphant record of memorable songs. It's an old friend returning, a big friendly hug of an album; it's music to put a smile on your face.