If you’re a music enthusiast and haven’t heard of Brian Eno, then you probably haven’t read the liner notes in your music collection. Chances are, this former keyboardist of the ‘70s art-rock band Roxy Music has either produced or influenced the sound of some of your favorite bands including David Bowie, Talking Heads, U2, and Coldplay.
While Eno’s minimalist instrumental albums pioneered the genre of ambient music, the studio guru’s early vocal albums undoubtedly transformed the sound of modern rock. It’s been 15 years since Eno released his last vocal album, 28 if you only count his solo releases. One might expect that after all these years an acoustic revolutionist would contribute further to the innovations of modern music. However, most of the compositions on Eno’s latest effort, “Another Day on Earth,” are only a continuation of his earlier work.
“Earth”’s first track, “This,” sounds very similar to the material found on “Right Way Up,” Eno’s collaboration with the former Velvet Underground cellist John Cale. Although “This” is a catchy tune and is filled with Eno’s usual array of sonic subtleties, the piece misdirects the ethereal flow of the rest of the album. It’s as if a water balloon filled with fluorescent paint was thrown at an old brick wall, and you stick around to watch the liquid seep into the individual cracks until the paint eventually dries. Sure, this exercise may prove amusing, but normally your interest will wane after the moment of impact. For consistency, Eno could have thrown a few more water balloons filled with complimentary colors every now and again to retain the listener’s attention.
If you skip track one while riding shotgun on a rainy evening, “Earth” will definitely provide a stimulating soundtrack for watching streams of meandering raindrop shadows on the changing expressions of your driver’s face.
Yes, “Earth” is supposed to be a vocal album, but Eno’s delicate voice often dissolves into each subtle sound texture, thus enhancing the recording’s overall ambience. Without a careful listen, the vivid imagery of his lyrics become as meaningless as the words found inside a fortune cookie given to a child.
The most discernable lyrics can be found on the last song “Bone Bomb,” which contains a poem read in a slow rhythm by Aylie Cooke. The track is very reminiscent of Eno’s collaborations with Laurie Anderson in the mid-‘90s.
Overall, “Earth” is an Eno gumbo. On “Caught Between,” Eno’s soft piano-work with Harold Budd gets mixed with the guitar drones of his work with King Krimson’s Robert Fripp. “How many Worlds” combines rhythmic elements of Eno’s earliest vocal albums with the illustrious strings of his ambient album “Discreet Music.”
However, those interested in exploring the world of Brian Eno, should start from the beginning with his 1974 release “Here Come the Warm Jets.”