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Brian Eno - Here Come The Warm Jets CD (album) cover


Brian Eno


Progressive Electronic

3.73 | 187 ratings

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5 stars Not bad for a "boring ambient guy." Eno's first "true" solo album doesn't just entertain the hell out of me; it basically defies a single classification. The guitars are often abrasive in a punkish sort of way, and the song structures are basically simple and "normal," but the arrangements are so thick and layered and intricate (not to mention avant-garde) that it has to be considered as a kind of art-rock (plus, the second side can be seen as a single extended suite of sorts). Think early Roxy Music (which makes sense, given that all of the RM members except Bryan Ferry participate in this album) crossed with a bit of Velvet Underground, a smidge of Beatles, and with the manic wackiness factor turned up to 11, and you start to form a picture of an album that will never ever leave my top 100.

Take the album's opener, "Needle in the Camel's Eye," for instance. There are layers on layers of Manzaneras aggressively playing single notes (at least, that's what it sounds like to me), coming together to form chords, which should please both fans of minimalism and of dense arrangements, and what is that chord sequence and vocal melody if not one of the loveliest, warmest Beatles-quality ditties around? It might be nice if Eno's vocals were higher in the mix, but then again that might overshadow the incredibly cool-sounding guitars, so I don't mind. And those start-stops in the second half? Don't they feel completely natural, completely organic, completely necessary to you? I know they do to me.

Lessee, then there's "The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch" (what a wonderfully awful title), which has wonderfully goofy singing and a wonderfully goofy synth solo, which shows quite amply that a solo full of weird noises can compete with a solo full of weird notes any day of the week. And then, of course, there's the glorious "Baby's on Fire," an awesome, loud pop- rocker with a catchy-as-hell vocal melody (with a totally over-the-top singing performance to boot) and what just happens to be my favorite guitar solo ever. From the very first notes, the tone screams out "I AM AWESOME," and Fripp hits on note and sound combinations that make me grit my teeth and tighten my sphincter every time. It's not really a solo with any "purpose" to it other than just trying to rule as much as humanly possible, but that's more than enough for me.

The last two songs of side one aren't quite as walloping, but they're terrific nonetheless. "Cindy Tells Me" is a pop ballad that has always struck me as Eno going for a classic Beach Boys-ish sort of sound, only with vocals more nasal than Mike Love on his worst day (not that I'm complaining) and a piercing guitar solo that somehow manages to fit in perfectly. And then there's the menacing "Driving Me Backwards," centered around two notes on a piano (yup, Brian the minimalist ambient dude was there on some level from the beginning) that create an awful lot of well-placed, but still kinda goofy tension; it's dark, but dark in a way that I feel like it could be the background music of one of the grey, murky castle levels in Super Mario 3 or something like that.

"On Some Faraway Beach" kicks off side two, and to say it's fantastic is to say nothing. It's filled with one keyboard level after another that's incredibly easy to play and would probably be easy to write, but to put them all together into something like this is simply unbelievable. I'll tell you, one of the synth lines (you'll know it when you hear it) before the vocals come in, in the context of all of the other layers that have come before, ends up being one of the most breathtakingly gorgeous sounds I've ever heard in my life, and by the time we get to the lyrics about wanting to commit suicide on a beach, it's all I can do to keep from crying. And sheesh, way to strip it back down perfectly, Brian.

The noisy and ugly "Blank Frank," which comes next, is a bit of a letdown for me, but I still appreciate it somewhat; it's Fripp's second showcase of the album, and some of the rhythm work here is just insane. Not always really enjoyable to my ears, but interesting nonetheless. "Dead Finks Don't Talk" is better but not great, with both the singing and speaking parts of the song definitely dredging up thoughts of Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music (e.g. "In Every Home a Heartache" or "Song For Europe," even though the latter was done after Eno left), but it's the goofy "More fool me, bless my soul" McCartney-esque pastiche in the second half that makes the song for me (not to mention the processed noise fest in the last half minute).

Fortunately, the album ends on a very strong note, with an INCREDIBLE pop ballad in "Some of Them are Old" and a nice instrumental (sorta; there are vocals, they're just very buried in the mix and only in the second half) keyboard number in the title track. The former is just sooooo warm, with some of the loveliest pedal steel guitar work you'll ever hear in the mid-song break before a bunch of beautiful layered synths come back to carry the main melody with gusto. And the mood, sheesh, the mood; I want to say it's nostalgic, but that doesn't feel quite right. It's unique, whatever it is, and the confusing bell sounds at the end (that come out of nowhere, really) only make it that much more puzzling. And the latter? Can you think of a more beautiful song about getting peed on? I sure can't!

Oh man, what an album. Anybody who wants to lay any claim to the status of "music snob" simply has to have this around. The buying public didn't really know what to do with it, but time has largely corrected that mistake, and you should join the critical masses and swipe this up as soon as possible.

tarkus1980 | 5/5 |


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