Latterly best known as an ambient composer, Eno's never been that far from the song...
Mike Barnes 2003-09-20
This is Brian Eno's first solo, all-song album since Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy back in 1974, a year after he was edged out of Roxy Music. Thirty years on, his approach is more subtle than the arch, avant-garde pop of that era. But it's just as potent. In fact "Just Another Day" is the most moving thing he has ever written.
Latterly best known as an ambient composer, Eno's never been that far from the song, either as a collaborator, or producer with the likes of Talking Heads and U2. But given that he's helped developed generative music software that plays itself ad infinitum, one would think that the ancient art of songwriting would seem about as relevant to him as basket weaving. Not so. Ever provocative, he recently distanced himself from the contemporary obsession with hardware by proclaiming that the greatest challenge facing today's musician is to write songs.
He's picked up his own gauntlet in some style here. Its nearest relative is Wrong Way Up, the album he made with John Cale back in 1990. But this is a moodier, more melancholic affair. Although his songs have never been particularly melodically developed, here their simplicity is their strength. "How Many Worlds" blossoms from primitive staccato piano lines into a gorgeous, string-driven instrumental chorus.
There's a seductive spaciousness in this soundworld. On "Caught Between", Eno's voice croons from the distance over slow shimmering beats, and minimal piano and guitar lines. The ultra-sparse "Passing Over" showcases another fine Eno vocal performance, harmonising with himself, before switching on the vocoder for a crunchy, Darth Vader-like effect.
In the 70s, Eno was intent on subverting rock lyric clichés, relishing the absurdities he came up with in the process. On Another Day On Earth he plays with language in a more considered, reflective way. This peaks on the last song, ''Bone Bomb'', sung by Aylie Cooke. "My body, so thin/So tired/Beaten for years," she intones in a haunting voice that is dramatically snuffed out into silence.