Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Brian Eno

by Thom Jurek
Finally bored with ambient music, a genre he pioneered in the 1970s, pop polymath Brian Eno emerged with Another Day on Earth, his first solo recording of "conventional" songs since Another Green World. From the rhythm track of opening song "This," the sound is unmistakable. A quirky hook covered in layers of atmosphere and a bouncy loop, it's a smart little tune with additional guitars by Leo Abrahams. Lyrically, Eno's process is poetic, employing not only his own strategies, but a computer generating words as well. At three-and-a-half minutes, it's a fine pop song, albeit one that would never get played on the radio. "And Then So Clear" is more evocative of Eno's work with Daniel Lanois, utilizing a very simple loop adorned with sparse guitars while keyboards pulse softly as a completely treated human voice paints a landscape both exterior and interior. "A Long Way Down," is pure mood, a tense, taut mood offered by electric piano, spectral keyboards imitating strings, and the layered guitars of Steve Jones and Abrahams. Eno multi-tracks his voice across the angular melody, and it slips and falls out more than it flows. And that's a basic problem with Another Day on Earth. Once again, despite trying to work with song forms and structures, they feel tossed off, half-baked. "Going Unconscious" isn't so much a song as an ambient soundscape with spoken word accompaniment by Inge Zalaliene. "Bone Bomb" is the same. "Under" feels like a demo rhythm track with a lyric draped loosely over it. But there are some fine moments too, such as "Passing Over" with Jones guitar cruising over the tune like a spaceship and Eno's sung lines intersecting at (mostly) just the right moments. "How Many Worlds" is almost a child's ditty full of existential questions. Another Day on Earth is a re-entry for Eno, who has the tremendous pressure of always trying to do something new. Nothing here feels new, but so what? If lightweight, it is often pleasant and amusing, if not utterly engaging. Fans will want to seek it out to see what the brainy one has been up to, but those just coming around should go to the back catalog first.

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