Apr 172013
 
Eno, heal thyself!

Eno, heal thyself!

Only in the cruise-control world of Brian Eno can this become a reality!

The £35 million hospital is the first to incorporate Eno’s installations, which aim to evoke a “serene atmosphere” and enhance the hospital’s “three dimensional, all-embracing means of treating patients”, in its architectural design.

This is kind of cool on many levels, but at the same time I can’t help but crack up at the notion of “regular people” with tubes shoved in their orifices being force-fed Eno’s highbrow Muzak and light show. And will this stuff be heard over all the machines buzzing and beeping and hospital staff coming in and out of rooms?

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May 042012
 

It’s not often we get to see Robert Fripp laugh, is it? I forgot King Crimson played on the failed early challenger to Saturday Night LiveFridays. Clearly, Fripp had a good time that night.

Collective critical wisdom probably considers Robert Fripp to be an “influential” musician, much like it does his old partner in crime, Brian Eno. However, unlike the body of work Eno produced, I’m not sure Fripp’s work as a guitarist, composer, producer, conceptualist, and iconoclast actually influenced many musicians. Who else plays in that weird scale that’s so distinctive of Fripp’s work? Who else uses Frippertronics? What other rock guitarists play seated on a stool? Eno inspired a generation of non-musicians to produce music, and he actually helped change the way we hear music. Fripp’s body of work suggests a musician needs to spend a lot of time practicing. Baby, that ain’t rock ‘n roll!

I’m not criticizing Fripp, mind you. I like his body of work. I like that one circular scale he plays repeatedly—and the other one, involving 2 notes that don’t quite go together yet move up the neck in some weird harmony. I love those soaring, melodic solos he occasionally plays on Eno records and The Roches’ “Hammond Song.” I consider Fripp to be an inspiring musician but not an influential one, if that makes sense. Along the same lines, I call bullshit on most folks who claim Captain Beefheart as an “influence.” His music is inspiring, but how can one be influenced by Beefheart without aping him? “Yeah, man, I like to stick daggers in the blues and sing ‘out there’ lyrics!” With rare exceptions (eg, Pere Ubu, early PJ Harvey), that is Beefheart more than it is influenced by Beefheart. I think he’s too idiosyncratic to be that useful an influence.

If you can get on board with this concept, are there other musicians you can think of who may be so idiosyncratic that they do not leave much room for influence, in terms of “building off” their work?

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Apr 072012
 

Sounds of the Hall in roughly 33 1/3 minutes!

In this week’s edition of Saturday Night Shut-In Mr. Moderator reflects on a possibly musical life-changing event. He asks that you attempt to listen through his newfound ears.

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[Note: You can add Saturday Night Shut-In episodes to your iTunes by clicking here. The Rock Town Hall feed will enable you to easily download Saturday Night Shut-In episodes to your digital music player.]

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Apr 062012
 

Still Hasn't Found What He's Looking For

I’ve been listening to Before and After Science this week and got to wondering: Has Brian Eno ever given a clear answer on why he stopped making “pop” albums? If he did, do you buy his answer?

If he didn’t want to repeat himself, why did Eno follow his 4 song-based albums with all those ambient albums and even more albums that not even diehard fans can bear listening to more than a couple of times? After a certain point, don’t those albums sound like he’s on cruise control?

Think about his main production jobs after Talking Heads. as he gravitated toward the lyrical, spiritual bands U2 and Coldplay. There’s no reason to think he was only in it for the money. As the songs on Before and After Science mellow out I get the sense Eno is making his first and only efforts at writing lyrics that possibly mean something more personal than the outcomes of his random draws from a deck of Oblique Strategies cards or whatever it is one does with the I Ching. Is it possible Eno stopped making song-oriented “pop” records because he realized he didn’t have it in himself to express some deep inner yearning and universal messages, the way Bono and Chris Martin so readily do? (Not to mention his old partner in crime, Bryan Ferry.) Is his production work with those artists an indication of what Eno wished he could have done himself but felt himself lacking?

In a way similar to how sammymaudlin once speculated that David Bowie‘s “balls envy” was at the root of his producing Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, I wonder if the second half of Eno’s career was motivated by a sense that he lacked soul, or whatever you want to call it. Just a thought.

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Feb 122012
 

An old friend and should-be Townsman passed along this Brian Eno promotional video, which neither of us had seen before. Perhaps it gets us one step closer to uncovering another related Rock ‘n Roll Holy Grail, the full 24-minute, Alfons Sinniger-directed 1974 documentary of Eno & The Winkies playing four songs in the studio. Keep hope alive!

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Nov 142011
 

Fresh as a daisy?

I don’t know why, but recently it occurred to me that Brian Eno may give off the most pleasant odor of all rock ‘n rollers. Although early photos of him find him in poses worthy of Channel and other great perfumiers, I doubt early Eno smelled anywhere near as fresh as I imagine modern-day Eno to smell. By some accounts I’ve read young Eno was living on the edge. Despite a likely liberal use of artificial fragrances that would rival those of the protagonist of HuysmansAgainst Nature, he probably reeked of smoke and groupies’ sweat.

It’s the early ’80s Eno, the ambient Eno, the Talking Heads‘ producer Eno, who I imagine developing advanced bathing techniques, extracting herbal oils, and even modifying his diet to ensure an around-the-clock, seasonal blend of pleasing, understated aromas. A morning ritual of, say, a rosewater bath, a dab of rosemary oil behind each earlobe, and a light brunch of fennel and braised squid before heading off to a day’s recording with U2 may have added as much to the magic of the band’s sessions for The Unforgettable Fire as Eno’s Oblique Strategies deck of cards. Eno probably kept a pot of chamomile tea steeping at all times to help drown out the more, uh, pungent odor of engineer/coproducer Daniel Lanois.

I bet Chris Martin of Coldplay appreciates the ambient scents that Eno brings to a session. A dank, musty studio is no place for Gwyneth and the kids to drop in. The girls love it when Eno smells like a chai latte.

So, I’ve made my case for Brian Eno as the Rocker Most Likely to Give Off a Pleasant Odor. Can you think of any other rocker who may smell even more delightful?

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