It’s not a fashionable notion to be an intelligent popular musician. Many clever musicians are keen to hide their smartness under a fairly considerable bushel. In fact some musicians have been known to dumb down by adopting ridiculous regional accents to hide their well-educated roots.
There is however one major exception, someone who has unashamedly worn his intelligence on his immaculately tailored sleeve. He’s the boffin’s boffin and he’s the man behind our cassette of the day, the tremendous ‘Before and after science’, ladies and gentlemen I give you, Mr Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno.
As we’ve already established in previous posts, 1977 was a great year for classic music releases and for this one our Brian gathered together a veritable who’s who of collaborating musicians from sources as diverse and unusual as Fairport Convention and Can.
The album sets off at a crack with the brilliant ‘No-one receiving’, a track that would become the blueprint for much of Talking Heads’ music that Brian would later produce. Some of the tracks are dreamlike and some of the tracks are straightforward pop music. If it’s possible some tracks manage to be both.
In general the more immediate stuff tends to be on side 1, and my two favourites are here – the lyrically brilliant and driving ‘Backwater’ and the anagrammatic ‘King’s lead hat’, which always springs to mind when I see a pile of ironing due to the fabulous line, ‘the passage of my life is measured out in shirts’.
The dreamier offerings on side 2 tend to feel like instrumentals even though they aren’t, largely as a result of being so musically strong that the lyrics (although outstanding) take on an almost incidental nature.
Criminally, this is the only Brian Eno album that I possess. There could be many reasons for this, but I’m convinced that it’s because I can’t imagine that anything else would come close!
Label – Polydor
Year – 1977