Brian Eno – Here Come The Warm Jets – 2017 half-speed master reissue.
When I first purchased this album on CD in 2002 or so, I knew three of the songs. Driving Me Backwards and Baby’s On Fire appear on the Ayers/Cale/Eno/Nico live album (which I originally purchased for the Velvet Underground connection, not the Roxy/Soft Machine connections). Album opener Needles In The Camel’s Eye is used over the opening credits of Todd Haynes’ criminally underrated Velvet Goldmine.
eno_jetsAnd there’s a reason Haynes used it: That opening rush of instrumentation (which accompanies a rush of glam-rocking teenagers chasing a pop star) pulls the listener right in. The intrigue doesn’t let up through the album’s 42 minutes. Lyrically, it’s almost all (in the words of Blank Frank) incomprehensible proverbs, but musically it’s a gorgeous grab-bag of styles, the way the best glam albums were back in ’73. This new remastering does a wonderful job of separating the musical components so that you can hear the strange fuzzed out guitar on the title track as something separate from the drums, keyboards, and the vocals (which are still too indistinct to figure out).
Aside from those songs, I mostly knew Eno for a lot of non-pop work – ambient work like Tuesday Afternoon (and Music For Airports), production jobs (U2, Devo, Bowie), and his collaboration with David Byrne, My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts. And as I write that, I realise I knew bits of 801, Bauhaus’ cover of Third Uncle, and a good bit of the first Roxy Music album. I’m pretty sure I bought Roxy’s debut the same day I acquired Warm Jets and, for the same reason – a bunch of its songs are used in Velvet Goldmine as well.
I wish I could be more articulate, but there’s nothing about this album’s 10 tracks that isn’t insanely cool. Occasionally I find myself annoyed with albums on which each track is faded out, as if neither the musicians nor the producer knew where the song ended. HCTWJ is the opposite – every track knows what it’s doing – there are crossfades between songs – like how Some Of Them Are Old weaves right into the the title track at the end of the album. On Some Faraway Beach (the original opener of side two, here the opener of side three), a slow piano-based track which ends abruptly on a strange but clear keyboard run is followed by rocker Blank Frank, but the transition between them has always felt absolutely purposeful to me. Blank Frank is another revelation here in terms of the clarity of the instruments. Keyboards and drums and guitars all seem to be in competition, but they’re all winning. (Oddly, this song does fade out, but over only five or six seconds. The martial drums that anchor the next track, Dead Finks Don’t Talk (apparently a kiss-off to Bryan Ferry) work their way through some very strange guitar work before surrendering to a blast of distorted synthesizer which concludes just where it needs to.
Two thumbs up. Go buy it.
(Eno’s other three mid-70s rock albums, Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), Another Green World, and Before and After Science have also been reissued on vinyl with the half-speed master treatment. I’m sure those are tasty too, but I don’t love those albums quite as much as I love this one.)