“Snake guitar” is one of a number of entertaining credits to be found in the sleeve notes for 1975’s ‘Another Green World’, the third Brian Eno solo album. Speaking to Lester Bangs a few years later, Eno explained how his playing on ‘Sky Saw’ evoked “the way a snake moves through the brush: a sort of speedy, forceful, liquid quality.” And that’s long before the record reaches the “spasmodic percussion” of ‘Golden Hours’. Taken in isolation, such attributions can sound a little pretentious, but they are neat little nods to the rather rapid and distinctive creative path upon which Eno embarked as he attempted to carve out his own, very particular place in the rock landscape of the seventies. The story of how he arrived there is summarised and appended via these four noteworthy releases.
It is not just because of his wilfully perverse descriptions of sound that writing about one of our greatest living artists is difficult. It’s a little like crafting a sizeable tome on the intricacies of World of Warcraft: if you care enough to want to read it, you almost certainly already know everything that’s in it. And yet, these beautifully produced, 2x45rpm half-speed remastered vinyl editions of four of Eno’s finest records should ensnare more than just the faithful. There is plenty of wonky pop here, alongside tipsy, mechanical rock, striking instrumental washes and a healthy disregard for whatever else was going on at the time of creation.
Working within a tight budget and conscious of the need to deliver relative success after his time with Roxy Music, Eno surrounded himself with familiar if not necessarily compatible faces, with portions of King Crimson, Hawkwind and, of course, the band he had so recently departed all represented within the personnel behind his solo debut, 1974’s ‘Here Come The Warm Jets’. A record that pulls in multiple directions, often simultaneously, it highlights Eno experimenting with different lead singer personae, sometimes performing as beautifully as he ever has, other times sneering in a flatly combative monotone.
It’s no surprise that the artist who went on to do so much within the sphere of ambient music paid more attention to the sound than the words, but the lyrics here were improvised by singing along to tapes from the studio until some sort of meaning crystallised. This method is most commonly cited when calling bullshit on Eno’s claim that ‘Dead Finks Don’t Talk’ isn’t about…