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  • Millie Watson

Brian Eno - Here Come The Warm Jets (1974)

This was an absolute revelation. I had just started my music degree and was doing my best to find my own voice. Maybe we’re a little hard on ourselves, but I think it took me a couple more years after this moment to get there. This album really was the beginning though. I had never heard anything like it. The story telling, the theatrics, the absurdity.

When I made those first two records, I was living on pure energy... I guess I had this complete optimism that, somehow or other, I’d survive.

I’ve never been a fan of the traditional guitar sound, and the word ‘rock’ is anathema to me (I know this is daft because looking over my influences there is a helluva lotta rock in there but there you have it, I never said I was rational). But this album overcame those ill-placed prejudices. When I listened I had no frame of reference whatsoever so it was one of those rare moments of discovery where you just have to accept it at face value sans context. It completely captured my imagination, this was music in a hyper-reality.

Side bar:

I found this great interview from 2001 with Eno about what Glam did (or more accurately didn’t) mean to him and loved this particular question (also because I’ve recently been obsessed with Sid and Nancy because everyone has to go through that phase):

Did you find the New York scene more consciously decadent than the London scene?

My feeling is that Americans have never been great on irony. For us, we were playing this decadent role, but there was also a certain amount of humour and detachment in it. None of us actually planned to get strung out on heroin or to jump out of hotel room windows. Whereas when it got translated into American, it became decadent with a capital D. So you had to be on heroin, and you had to go the whole way. And I think the same thing happened with punk. The Sex Pistols were very humorous and were conscious of their slightly sarcastic role in society, but when you saw the American version of that, it was undiluted nihilism. So I think we felt distinct from the American thing, because we thought they didn't get the joke.

The first track I heard off of this was ‘Baby’s On Fire’ which is just brilliant. I've never been one for lyrics at all, but Eno’s storytelling is so vivid I easily slip into whatever bizarre world he’s set up for us. His voice carries the narrative in a theatrical - quasi comic opera? - way, robust at times before becoming sharp and accusatory. Although at times cynically vindictive, there is a directness to the album and performance which I think is rare in a lot of 21st century music.

Flights of fancy. Visceral. Grotesque. Wonderful.

The album opens with 'Needle in the Camel's Eye'. Such a joyous start. I reckon it sounds like the music played over the final scene of an 80s high school, feel good movie when everyone has completed their arc. On the theme of high school (Cindy is such an American teen name) I always enjoyed ‘Cindy Tells Me’ but was initially confused by the self-mutilation, a plague of locusts descending on the chorus. Over time I've come to love it - because why not? Eno's here to entertain.

At the halfway point, 'On Some Far Away Beach' is like an oasis after wading through the morass of 'Driving me Backwards'. It marks a shift in tone from condescending, pointed, nihilistic first half to a tongue-in-cheek nostalgia. Like a middle management paper pusher looking at cliché postcards of dolphins and palm trees in Florida pinned to the cubicle. The lyrics speak to this: "Given the chance / I'd die like a baby / On some faraway beach / When the seasons over // Unlikely / I'll be remembered..." I love the lyrics, but the man himself has requested no one read into them because they are relatively detached from meaning, they are tool to accomplish a musical idea with equal significance as every other instrument.

Lastly, 'Some of Them are Old' feels like a eulogy. The middle-manager has passed, and is ascending to his absurd idea of heaven at a depressing and twisted luau. Imagine ascending to a chorus of Eno's in their sparkly white suits and outrageous wings. Now that would be a way to go.

What I love is the operatic use of music and language. The music is kind of the body language and tells us one thing often in opposition to the words coming out of his mouth. Each song has such individual musical character, pulling together his extensive music knowledge and exposure into one bonanza


Baby’s on Fire: Photographer snip snap / Take your time she’s only burning

Burning Airlines: Sweet Regina's gone to China / Cross legged on the floor

The Fat Lady of Limbourg: You would never believe that / She'd tasted royalty and fame / If you saw her now.


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