What might we have expected from an early 70s solo album from the weird keyboard guy in Roxy Music? Something bizarrely atmospheric perhaps, like say Bo Hansson? Maybe a modestly ambitious collection of early songcraft? I don’t think anyone could have envisioned something so varied, so melodically self-assured as this debut. This album is so good – every once in a while I get obsessed with this record, so I have to listen to it over and over, texting it from work to check on how it’s doing, telling it to fix dinner and put on something sexy for me. Like side one: “Needles In The Camel’s Eye” sounds so much like Superchunk it’s uncanny, right down to the vocal harmonies and unintelligible but still meaningful lyrics. (Mac from Superchunk would record a cover of Eno’s “St Elmo’s Fire” with his side project Portastatic.) Is “Cindy Tells Me” a feminist anthem or satire of same? Either way, it’s a smart song that employs a Phil Spector-style arrangement (furthering the satire? these are the sort of goatee-scratching questions that often come up when listening to Eno). “Driving Me Backwards” is built on hypnotic piano chords with a vocal that almost sounds to me like he worked out the vocal track and then actually recorded it backwards. A neat idea, but it illustrates a problem with much of his later career – he became more of an ‘idea’ guy and less of a ‘song’ guy. Too bad, because this is a phenomenal collection of tunes. Did Brain Eno invent indie rock? The song titled “Black Frank” (hint) will be a star witness for the prosecution in that case.
NEEDLES IN THE CAMEL’S EYE