Brian Eno - Another Day on Earth

I think that given how great Eno's first albums were it's a shame that he was sidetracked by his ambient stuff.

 

 

Rewind thirty odd years and Brian Eno was confined to bed (I think a car knocked him over, but I'm not sure). A friend brought him an album to listen to and Brian dozed off whilst the record played. It was eighteenth century harp music and the volume was low. Also, the stereo didn't work properly and as the music faded in and out of his hearing Brian suddenly had a thought – I'll invent ambient music! And that was that. It is as the inventor of ambient music (or at least the modern inventor – Erik Satie amongst others might have something to say about Eno being the overall inventor of it) that Eno is probably best known these days. Either that, or as the producer of U2, Talking Heads and, rather more incomprehensibly, James. Or maybe he's best known as a member of Roxy Music. In any event, he is probably  least well known as a writer of pop songs. This is perhaps not too surprising despite the fact that he knocked out four belting albums from 73-77. Because it is only now, twenty-eight years later, that he's returned (as a solo artist) to the song format.

 

At the time everyone thought – Yeah, this ambient stuff's great. You can listen to music without actually hearing it. And, to be fair to Eno, Music for Airports, Apollo, and a few other albums were pretty good. But, however unwittingly, Eno also unleashed an awful lot of chod. Meandering, meaningless drivel complete with awful new age babble. I think that given how great Eno's first albums were it's a shame that he was sidetracked by his ambient stuff. Fie on you, careless driver (if that was the cause of Eno being laid up in bed).

 

What does Another Day on Earth sound like though? Well, it's not 1977 anymore. The keyboards and textures will not greatly surprise anyone who has heard Nerve Net and Wrong Way Up, Eno's surprisingly mellow collaboration with John Cale. There is none of the violence that Eno meted out at times on Here Come the Warm Jets – overall the sound is quite placid and gentle. Eno's voice is also much warmer and gentler than it was in the early seventies. Gone is the nasal twang but still present is Eno's general awkwardness when it comes to singing. Part of the reason that he embraced ambient was his dislike of writing and singing lyrics. From the way he has processed his voice on several tracks I imagine that his old ambivalence is still present on Another Day on Earth.

 

The album kicks off with This, a catchy little number dominated by mechanically echoing synths and Brian's strong vocals. A guitar adds some tautly defined

shapes and the whole thing is very pleasant. The pace drops for And Then So Clear. Eno's voice is semi-vocodored; it sounds weak and alien. A Long Way Down is somewhat sinister whilst Going Unconscious features singer Inge Zalaliene and sounds like a gentler version of a My Life in the Bush of Ghosts track. The album gets a little bogged down around this point – pace wise the tracks are a little too similar and it takes until the seventh track for a bit of levity to return to the album. How Many Worlds employs a sweet and simple melody that is given depth by Neil Catchpole's violin. Bottomliners is a beguiling track and Just Another Day manages to be both uplifting and melancholic at the same time. The album finishes with Bone Bomb, the most striking track on the album. Aylie Cooke flatly sings an angry, sad and dark song – it is emotional and powerful and should make Eno realise that lyrics are nothing to worry about.

 

In fact, they are some of the best things about this album. They almost make it into a concept album. This is an album about the world – not in a political 'isn't globalisation terrible' kind of way, but in a simple and human way. I'm sure that Eno has some pretty trenchant views on what's happening in the world but he knows that an album isn't the place to vent spleen. There's no empty posturing here, no facile commentating, just observations on the world around us. We hear about volcanoes, about the tundra; we see the world from the point of view of an astronaut and we are asked questions about the world we live in. In case all of this should seem too nebulous a way to think of the world then Bone Bomb answers that particular criticism.

 

Eno's return to the song-based album is largely a success. If anything the album suffers from using too few textures – during the first half of the album the sound becomes a little muddy. I never thought I would write this, but it does miss someone like Robert Fripp to break up the slightly monotonous sound. But this is a relatively minor criticism. Another Day on Earth is a good album – we should all encourage Eno not to leave it another twenty-eight years until the next one.

  

Words: Chris Dawson.