INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Trouser Press FEBRUARY 1979 - by Steven Grant
BRIAN ENO: MUSIC FOR FILMS / VARIOUS ARTISTS: NO NEW YORK
There are at least four distinct Enos: 1) International pop star (R.I.P.); 2) Production whiz and maker of stars; 3) Cybernetically-oriented psycho-sociologist; and 4) Experimental composer.
The latest release from Eno #4 is Music For Films. As Eno himself writes on the back cover, "This album is a compilation of fragments from my recorded work over the last two or three years. Some of it was made specifically for use as soundtrack material; some of it was made for other reasons but found its way into films; most of it is previously unissued in any form." Though Eno received aid from the likes of Robert Fripp, Percy Jones and John Cale on several tracks, most of the eighteen instrumental song-paintings here are his own doing, and they drift in and out of his styles. While the three parts of Sparrowfall most closely resemble Eno's work with Cluster, Aragon replicates the more delicate moments of Before And After Science, Slow Water sounds like an outtake from Evening Star, and many of the shorter pieces are reminiscent of the instrumental openings on Another Green World.
While this does give the album a rather fragmentary feel, like browsing through an archive, the music is as interesting as any Eno has produced. If there is anything wrong with Music For Films (of course, those who didn't like Eno's earlier electronic music will think there's a great deal wrong), it's the failure to list the films these pieces go with. Eno's made such a big thing about music for specific purposes, it's a shame he didn't give us the frame of reference to apply Music For Films to.
Eno #2 has a less successful track record than Eno #4, and his latest offering, No New York, featuring the post-new wave bands (or "No Wave" bands, hence the title) The Contortions, Teenage Jesus & The Jerks, Mars, and D.N.A., isn't any better than his recent Devo production was. With the exception of The Contortions, No New York embodies most of what I consider bad about recent "art" rock: while technically interesting, it has no effect - once played, you can't remember what you heard; in one ear and dribbling out the other.
Another thing: the groups here show their influences too clearly. James Chance & The Contortions come from the Richard Hell & The Voidoids school of modem music, while Teenage Jesus & The Jerks (despite their protestations) derive from Patti Smith, Mars sound like they overdosed on John Cage at NYU, and D.N.A. draw heavily on The Doors, though they've gone farther than the other groups in breaking out of their influences.
The Contortions, apparently swamped with angst enough to make Richard Hell seem like a real party-going good old guy, are the one group here that really make any impression, and I'd tell you how good their lyrics are, BUT SOME IDIOT PRINTED THEM ON THE INSIDE OF THE INNER SLEEVE, so you have to stick it over your head to read them. Just something else to irritate...