Brian Eno - Reissues album reviews

The life of Brian, part one – in the wrong format, with Here Come The Warm Jets, Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), Another Green World, and Before And After Science

Brian Eno Before And After Science album artwork

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The fanfare accompanying these four, limited edition, gatefold double LPs extols the virtues of their being remastered at half-speed and playing at 45rpm, sounding better than any previously available version. Sadly Prog wasn’t supplied with physical copies but digi files identical to the 2005 CD reissues. Accordingly, no judgement as to whether these pricey 180gm vinyl reissues represent any significant sonic improvements or are the equivalent of snake oil aimed at audiophiles can be made. However, their presence at least allows us to celebrate a crucial period in Eno’s career.

An astonishing, arguably unsurpassed period of creativity.

For all his dilettante theorising on cultural intersections, inspired appropriation of Cagean philosophy and, in the very early days, playfully talking up concept albums about Lizard Girls and other outré characters from his fertile subconscious, these records demonstrate how good Eno was at the sometimes prosaic business of making an album. Despite the self-deprecating virtue-signalling of his non-musician status, he knew how to get things done, and what he didn’t know, as his brief time in Roxy Music demonstrated, he learnt very quickly.

Precocious, witty and innovative, everything he’d become famous for in the decades that followed was designed and hammered out during the four years in which these albums appeared. Add 1975’s Discreet Music and they represent an astonishing, and arguably unsurpassed, period of creativity. Here Come The Warm Jets, solo Eno’s only Top 30 release, and its eclectic successor, Taking Tiger Mountain, have a ball subverting post-Velvets wonky rock, while welding dissonance and jagged edges with an almost naïve glam pop posturing that belies their underpinning experimental methodology.

However, it’s Another Green World where he cuts loose from the tethers of rock and, with the help of engineer Rhett Davies, finds a distinctive voice. Slipping into the poetry of space and silence, the haiku-like sequencing ensures that even the gaps between the music are as much a part of the audio experience as the tunes themselves. Without the traditional songwriters’ emphasis on resolving experience and meaning into neat parcels, pieces drift in and flow out in a complementary but nonlinear fashion. Though Before And After Science bulks up the rhythmic content a little, operating more explicitly within a rock framework than its predecessor, the muted tonal language, instrumental wisps and vaporous harmonics point to somewhere else entirely. Listening today, the extent to which Eno’s raw blueprints are seeded across almost every aspect of modern music making is nothing short of remarkable.

Sid Smith

Sid's feature articles and reviews have appeared in numerous publications including Prog, Classic Rock, Record Collector, Q, Mojo and Uncut. A full-time freelance writer with hundreds of sleevenotes and essays for both indie and major record labels to his credit, his book, In The Court Of King Crimson, an acclaimed biography of King Crimson, was substantially revised and expanded in 2019 to coincide with the band’s 50th Anniversary. Alongside appearances on radio and TV, he has lectured on jazz and progressive music in the UK and Europe.  

A resident of Whitley Bay in north-east England, he spends far too much time posting photographs of LPs he's listening to on Twitter and Facebook.