Eno, Another Day on Earth
What better way to contrast the last full lyrics album with the latest, after 30 years. I can’t think of a greater contrast in any musical artist’s career. This is spare, austere, informed by lightness and ambience. There’s no standard rock set-up, no hip/catchy choruses or deliberately nutty fun and expansion. The one continuity with Tiger
is the difficult attitude to lyrics and lead vocals. I think a computer was used to generate some (insert EnoComment on how songlyrics are the only part of music that haven’t been improved or abetted by technology), and yet on others like Bone Bomb
Eno takes great care to get an idea across. Like de Sade in a spin, he draws in his accountant and cleaning lady for vocal duties. And there’s a loose theme of global modernity, crossing from France to China and the twists and turns of identity/observation in between. With lots of space and time by suggestion. Of course. The modern world considered purely from an atmospheric point of view.
Melancholy and fragility layered over textured washes and simple beats. Vocoder treatments and astute, Edge-like crafted guitar backing (Leo Abraham). Eno enjoys singing these days, it seems, and he’s not afraid to stack a few harmonies in the background. It’s a slow burner, and the songs require many listens to find a familiar home, but there’s a lot of warmth once you dip into its gentleness. It seems to operate on a pleasingly subliminal level. There’s also a feeling that the music is still looking for its location and full context to come around. Not to mean that it sounds futuristic, just unique in a stripped and simple way, music from somewhere else. It sounds great cranked up on headphones. Like Beach
, the last three songs are best.
But from another point of view this is all incredibly mild: decidedly cool and distanced with only just enough musical activity to reward the most devoted attention spans. It’s neither fun nor funny; just spare beats with uninspired vocals orbiting within sight of the recent Drawn from Life
. It is
that, and yet so much more. For instance, Eno has done something amazing: written a sympathetic song about suicide bombers
). Inspired by the bomber’s bone-fragments lodging as shrapnel in the victims around him, Eno captures the desolation and bodily demarcation where politics and occupation stop. The details are of what sounds like Palestine (‘Buildings pushed over… young girls dreaming of beautiful deaths… everything stolen except my bones’); It sounds terribly clichéd to write about that last timeless moment, just like it’s clichéd to say the song is also very affecting. But it works. It approaches the issue from empathy rather than disparagement, it avoids descending to the universally denigrating T word. The timing/release is of course powerful; and I think it’s high time the subject got its full artistic due, it’s opening up away from the rhetorical ideology of Lifestyle (as in They hate our way of life, our Freedom etc).