Brian Eno: Another Day on Earth

Brian Eno
Another Day on Earth
(Rykodisc)

 

Eno's early "rock" records--Here Come the Warm Jets, Taking Tiger Mountain (by Strategy), Another Green World, and Before and After Science--were deliberately, beautifully, and almost frustratingly strange. In his lyrics, he shied away from mentioning love outright, or anything terribly personal, but that didn't stop those albums from being some of the most intimate and personal ones ever recorded. In Eno's hands, funny nonsense jumbles like "We are the table, the captain's table" ("The True Wheel") sounded romantic and important. You didn't need to figure out that "King's Lead Hat" was an anagram of "Talking Heads" to know that the song rocked; hell, you didn't even need to understand English to absorb Eno's willfully abstruse word games, off-kilter melodies, and rich, disorienting textures. That's part of what made those songs so enduring--in 2074, "Baby's on Fire" will sound just as weird as it did in 1974.

In contrast, Another Day on Earth--Brian Eno's first album with vocals since 77's Before and After Science (or since the Eno/John Cale collaboration in the early '90s, if you're feeling pedantic)--sounds deliberately and almost frustratingly un-strange, sonically and lyrically. There's absolutely nothing to take issue with here, but that's part of the problem. It sounds pristine--not just in the way it was recorded, but in the way it's presented, packaged, and delivered.

Everything glides easily, wrapped in a slick layer of ambient whoosh. Eno's diction is perfect and correct, with a stately, measured air; his voice has aged somewhat, but there's very little grain to it. "Just Another Day" repeats oddly straightforward lines like "It's just another day, it's just another day on earth" without sounding sad or even exhausted--just resigned and inflectionless. There are many pleasurable moments on this album: "How Many Worlds" opens with a playful piano ditty before ballooning into giant silvery clouds of soaring, aching strings; "Under" balances shivery textures and endlessly multitracked vocals on a funky bass loop. But in the end, Another Day on Earth feels weirdly impersonal; there's no way to travel inside of it and make it your own, no way to gain a foothold on its slippery surface.

 
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