INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
The Line Of Best Fit AUGUST 19, 2020 - by Ross Horton
BRIAN ENO AND JOHN CALE'S COLLABORATIVE MASTERPIECE
GETS THE DESERVED THIRTIETH ANNIVERSARY TREATMENT
Wrong Way Up is by far the most tantalising prospect of the two reissue's coming from Brian Eno this month (the other being his collaboration with Jah Wobble). Particularly since this collaboration with John Cale features much of the best work either artist got up to in that most hideous of decades - the 1990s.
By that time, both Cale and Eno 's legends had faded somewhat, and their commercial and critical peaks were at least a decade in the rear-view. So the fact that Wrong Way Up works is surprising, but then considering the calibre of the artists involved, nobody should have doubted it.
John Cale, the man whose dulcet tones - in voice, bass and viola - and relentlessly experimental ideas propelled the first two works of The Velvet Underground to God-level status: the first is the best album of all time, the second is the most violent. Despite finding his standing as a sonic genius all but confirmed after those Velvets albums, he went on to make incredible albums on his own (Paris 1919, Fear, Slow Dazzle), and he also produced a slew of incredible albums, from the first records by The Stooges, The Modern Lovers and Patti Smith, to the monolithic avant-garde works of ex-bandmate Nico, and of course the unforgettable Bryter Layter by Nick Drake.
Many of those same plaudits could also be applied to Brian Eno, having been part of those first two iconic Roxy Music albums, part of the push towards a new and uncharted territory in music with his solo albums (both 'pop' and ambient), and with others - particularly his production work on David Bowie's Berlin trilogy, his three unparalleled albums with Talking Heads (if The Velvet Underground & Nico is the greatest album ever, Remain In Light isn't far behind), and his integral role in U2's chart dominance at the end of the '80s and beyond.
These two icons, working in harmony on Wrong Way Up, is a joy to experience - whether it's your first time or your hundredth. Of course, they'd already worked together - as well as the mythical June 1, 1974 album with Eno , Nico and Kevin Ayers, Cale provided viola on Eno 's magnum opus Another Green World, and 1978's Music For Films. Eno in turn produced Cale's 1974 album Fear (one of his best), and the 1989 album Words For The Dying, which was one of Lou Reed's favourite albums of the '80s. This collaborative energy courses throughout Wrong Way Up.
Not that you'd have expected it if you were in the studio at the time - the sessions were fraught, and there were numerous personality clashes throughout - but the album is actually amongst the brightest and most jovial in either man's catalogue. Opener Lay My Love, with its dense layers and rapturous, over-filled sonic field, plays like a mature cousin to the material on Eno 's 1977 masterpiece Before And After Science. One Word, with its '80s sheen, is a simpler and more lightweight pleasure, but is a pleasure nonetheless.
In The Backroom and Empty Frame both pare back the tempo, and glisten and glide along on simple rhythms, and glossy instrumentation. Album standout Cordoba brings the pace down even more, but excels as a result - its dreamy, ethereal haze is a perfect frame for Cale's subdued vocals. Then the album brilliantly segues into something resembling sophisti-pop with Spinning Away, with Eno 's vocals giving the listener an eerie glimpse into what might have been had be taken over leadership of Roxy Music in Bryan Ferry's place.
Elegant synthpop (Footsteps), thumping Peter Gabriel-esque pop (Been There Done That), oddball old-school R&B (Crime In The Desert) and Eno 's wistful closer The River all highlight the dexterity and adaptability of both songwriters, both voices and both unique talents. This edition also includes the US bonus tracks - You Don't Miss Your Water and Palanquin - that add further colour to what's already a kaleidoscopic album.
A legendary album, by two legendary artists. This isn't a recommendation as much as a 'buy on sight'.
File under: self-isolation essentials.