Brian Eno’s mid-70’s pop albums – before he went off into ambient noodle land – rank high in the roster of records that serve any mood. The atmospheric tone of his song-songs offers of glimpse of the path he would later explore with his non-song compositions. But there’s also a diversity of moods and tempos that keep those records from becoming too snoozy. Of course, Eno became interested in exploring the concept of snooziness itself, which is what led him to compose all those albums for looking up at the moon or floating in a boat or airports or whatever. I like the records with songs and vocals, and I also like it when music enhances the ambiance of my environment (as opposed to overwhelming it.)
My, my, my… Brian Eno continues to surprise even if you think you’ve figured out his methods. We’ve all heard by now of his oblique strategies; starter packs are available for purchase. Throwing out sounds, ideas and words at random then finding some means of binding them together has served Eno and his collaborators very well. I always presumed that this particular title was a result of just such witchery. There’s no cohesion to those words being together. But, nope, Eno took inspiration from a true tale of a young man named William Underwood – a Negro in the parlance of his time – from a place called Paw Paw, MI who claimed to possess pyrokinetic powers. Being the 1800’s, of course, science had no means to either disprove or explain those claims, but the man was documented by observes breathing fire (though not, to my knowledge, barbecuing kittens.) The nineteenth century was full of such delightfully credulous tales of pseudo scientific quakery, and more of them should be revived in pop culture. The weight of real context lends a whole new meaning to a self-consciously flippant song; suddenly there’s a story that you really want to know more of. This could be the seed of the next AHS.
On days of stress and frustration, where to turn? Perhaps Brian Eno, in a twilight between pure ambiance and pop, is just the man to relax my frazzled mind. There’s something almost symphonic going on here, a dramatic arc that tells the story, in a song with very few words. I find it relaxing, is what I’m trying to say, and more than that, creatively elevating. It’s not about anything but it makes me feel good.
That was enough with the depressing dead people already. Brian Eno is buoyant and very much alive. The master of ambient dreamscapes is also master of jolting glam rock rebellion. Just the song to kickstart Velvet Goldmine into frantic, sequin-dazzled action. The weirdness is euphoric. Listening to Brian Eno is a lifestyle choice, a secret identity that may or may not come with a taste for purple berets.