Howlin’ Foxx – John Foxx + The Maths Reclaim The Primeval Chaos Of The Now [part 2]

john foxx + the maths 2020

John Foxx + The Maths tribute to The Velvet Underground… in more ways than one

[…continued from last post]

John Foxx has spoken about the influence of Hank Marvin’s guitar playing on him as a music fan growing up, but apart from the Beatles/Shadows synthesis of “When You Walk Through Me” from “Systems Of Romance,” there’s not too much you could point to in his CV to reveal that. Apart from Foxx playing acoustic guitar on B.E.F.’s Billy MacKenzie cover of “It’s Over” with Hank himself taking the lead guitar. Now that’s all changed. “The Dance” began with a modular rhythm echoing in an empty space while Robin Simon added incongruously buttery guitar twang straight from the Hank Marvin playbook for a dreamy, early 60’s romantic pop sound.

Meanwhile, the synths began encroaching on this sound, adding minor key shading that upped the beautiful melancholy of the song as the upward spiral of the lead melody made its way to the spotlight. On first listen I thought that this was going to be an instrumental, but Foxx’s dramatic entry into the song at the 1:20 point came as an unexpected surprise as he whispered into our ears, stepping out of the shadows where he’d been the whole time. Meanwhile the song continued to build in low key grandeur until by its end we were swimming in cathedrals flooded with glorious sound. The lyric was as minimal as the music itself was maximal. Making for a stunningly emotive song.

Foxx had assumed that there had been more of The Velvet Underground’s DNA in his body of work than there had been upon review, which was part of the genesis of how this album developed. To allow him to make up the missed chances he thought he’d covered earlier. “New York Times” was a track that was predicated on writing further about the titular character of Sister Ray.

“She used to dream, about perfection
She had a love of distaste and rejection…

And in her room, she kept no light
So she could hold on to the darkness, every night…

That sailor’s hat, those stolen clothes
That torn out chain, that remained, across her door
She loved the marks, and what they’d leave
She said they tore all the wings from her dreams” – New York Times

The rhythmic scrape of synth noise that trilled like an insect syncopated with the white noise hi-hats drumbox tom tom right out of “Enola Gay.” Robin Simon’s guitar added distorted riffs to give the clean groove a bit of noise and muscle. Benge’s evil bass synth sound echoed the desperation of the streets that this Sister walked, but there’s no tricks or murder here. Just the hint of escape and redemption.

john foxx + the maths - the last time I saw you UK 7" sleeveI loved how the next track began immediately on following the last note of “New York Times” fading. “Last Time I Saw You” was the dark heart of the album. All queasy, lurching mechanical rhythm loops of sickening inevitability. The hint of horror movie theremin was buried deep in the mix but this was not a supernatural horror being sung about. This song dealt with the monsters in our midst who casually kicked their humanity to the curb for power and empire.

“Last time I saw you
I had to look away
Some kind of presence
Making me feel ashamed

Last time I saw you
I tried to reconcile
All those, shellshock visions
With the mystery crimes

If you’re the prophet
Then we must be the loss
If you’re the cut and style
Then we must be the cloth” – Last Time I Saw You

The final song opened with a deceptive synth drone until the Simmons drums of Benge immediately let us know that Foxx was revisiting the romantic melancholy of a song like “Twilight’s Last Gleaming” from “The Golden Section.” But where those earlier ballads were suffused with longing and possibilities, this one is written from the perspective of the older man Foxx is now and the poignancy is devastating as he examines the traces left of love long lost. The synth solos in the middle eight and climax are heartbreaking in their intensity. Another difference to the songs of old in this vein were that we could have had at least seven minutes to let them play out in their grandiosity. This time the closing solo is brief and with Simon adding his guitar to the sound for a melancholic undertow that was more clear-eyed for its lack of grandiloquence.


This was a great album for John Foxx +The Maths. It’s always great to hear Robin Simon playing along with Foxx, and this was another chapter to their collaboration. It’s a far cry from the fusion of guitar and synth that Conny Plank brought to the table 42 years ago on “Systems Of Romance!” There’s no smoothness desired here. It’s also a far cry from any of the other Maths albums; which have tended to mutate – sometimes wildly – between releases. Foxx had said in his Electronic Sound interview that in reviewing his past he was drawn to “The Man Who Dies Every Day” from “Ha! Ha! Ha!” as being something he’d like to dive into and explore further. I can only concur that Foxx has taste similar to mine, since that’s a pivotal Ultravox! song for me and if I had to pick only one that encapsulated the gist of the band, it’s the single track I’d choose.

But this album mutates the genome of the song in various radical ways. Maybe only “New York Times” [what a great title!] traffics in precisely that sort of vibe. The rest is darker or more melancholic. Foxx has correctly responded to the zeitgeist and has made an album that reflects the punishing now in an adult fashion. And that’s what I respect from the artists that I like. That’s he’s done it with a support crew like The Maths gives me hope that one day; maybe next year, we can have a concert or two that we would want to attend. Wherever it may be.

– 30 –

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Howlin’ Foxx – John Foxx + The Maths Reclaim The Primeval Chaos Of The Now [part 1]

john foxx + the maths howl CD cover

Metamatic ‎| UK | CD | META67CD | 2020

John Foxx + The Maths: Howl – UK – CD [2020]

  1. My Ghost
  2. Howl
  3. Everything Is Happening At The Same Time
  4. Tarzan And Jane Regained
  5. The Dance
  6. New York Times
  7. Last Time I Saw You
  8. Strange Beauty

It’s been a Hell of a year, and the John Foxx + The Maths album I’d been waiting over a year for was pushed back due to the Covid-19 bomb going off in the Spring. I’d lost the plot so thoroughly with potentially life-threatening stimuli to engage my brainstem with that when the week before the delayed release of “Howl” was heralded by an email from the Foxxlist, my spouse immediately stepped up tot he plate and ordered it for me. Thankfully, the goods arrived at my house via the US Postal Service. But for how much longer?! Let’s dive in after a few days of regaining my footing with this new album.

“My Ghost” began with a drumbox ticking off and the distorted guitar of Robin Simon riffing at a low volume before the synths [also distorted] added a “Telstar” like wail to the energy levels. Then Foxx joined in the song in a chorused, distorted voice as he related how his ghost [or shadow figure] was threatening and undermining his life. The hook here was the grinding synth distortion skipping across the stereo spectrum as the synths built up a chord sequence similar to the one in Bauhaus’ “Lagartija Nick. Benge injected the necessary back beats into this song to give it the teeth it needed.

“My ghost, with all the ragged rage
I have ever seen
With all the twisting things
I thought I was hiding” – My Ghost

At the coda Simon got in a guitar solo that had a twangier [yet still distorted] counterpoint to the now wailing [yet distorted] synths as the energy peaked up to a harsh drop off just shy of a cold ending. As it had been with the early pre-release singles, this was a darker, sexier incarnation of John Foxx + The Maths at work. There was none of the dispassionate restraint commonplace in Foxx’s music of the last 40 years. This was music in the red for the very times we’re living in today.

john foxx and the maths howl single coverThe title track was a bracing, chaotic glamrok dive back into the howling feedback of “Ha! Ha! Ha!” only allied this time with more Bauhaus DNS in the form of a sexy whipcrack beat courtesy of Benge, who also played the filthiest synth bass imaginable. The synthesizer quotient here was as low as it’s been for Foxx since that second Ultravox! album. It was primarily Simon’s show as the howling chaos of his playing was front and center here. Foxx hung back here, his voice run through a chorus and [better get used to it] further distortion for a distancing effect, proffering only the barest hint of guidance to the raging stallion of Robin Simon’s guitar. The lyric seemed to be purely a response to Simon’s playing.

“I see you stand in the middle of a storm
And all the traces are gone, gone, gone
Howl downtown, let the beast out
Let the beast out …now!” – Howl

It first blush, the tone of the playing struck me as being cut from the cloth of Gang Of 4’s Andy Gill [r.i.p.] as I immediately heard the kind of serrated, violent chording that Gill played on cuts like “To Hell With Poverty.” Further listening gave evidence of Fripptone® ca. “Scary Monsters [and super creeps…]” to also be found here. The guitar was in your face and down your throat from the get-go, but further listening revealed that Benge was playing valuable counterpoint here with all of the rhythm under his command.

The lurching synth tone only ever got a bit of spotlight on the middle eight, which was the only part of this that sounded remotely like what we expect from a John Foxx project.  I also loved the aggressive mixing that Benge and Foxx oversaw here with Simon’s guitar cutting in and out of the mix with hard, percussive edits that were shocking in their abruptness. The final minute and a half of the album track was merely the guitars [which Foxx was also playing, in addition to Simon] and the synths having a love fest while handcuffed to each other with knives drawn.

Then came the centerpiece of “side one.” Will there be a more appropriate song for 2020 than “Everything Is Happening At The Same Time?” Doubtful. The [distorted] violin intro from Math Hannah Peel and the keystone drum pattern, so similar to “Tomorrow Never Knows” marked this song as the one touchstone of familiarity in the midst of this turbulent return to the aggression of “Ha! Ha! Ha!.”

Foxx has been inspired by the Beatles turn to psychedelia since his teenaged years, and he’s not been shy about building a magnificent edifice on the foundations that the Beatles had built, but this time he’s not aiming for sense of possibly thrilling fusion/dislocation of self that “When You Walk Through Me” offered. Nor is he attempting to model the intoxicating swirl of attraction that “Endlessly” had done.

This time he was using psychedelia as a metaphor for the disjointed and troubling times of today. he feeling of not standing on solid ground any more as the very basis of reality was under attack. This time it was the violin, along with the rhythm that took the spotlight as Foxx distilled the confusion and despair that pressed him down on a daily basis.

“Scenes on the news
Stream in, confuse me
Things I can hardly believe
Things I wish I’d never seen

And everything is happening at the same time

Too many people
And so many lies
So much to deal with each day
Sometimes I’m too sad to try” – Everything Is Happening At The Same Time

john foxx + the maths - tarzan and jane regained cover artA single beat dropped before the song began on the “two.” Right away the interplay was between the rhythm box and the minor key flute-like synths [that can’t help but make me think of The Specials “Ghost Town”] and Robin Simon’s guitar, which was more under control than on the last Maths outing. I suspect that what I thought were flute patches were actually Hannah Peel’s heavily mutated violin.
They suggested the exotic air of snake charming. The biggest difference here was Foxx as he’s back in touch with his wilder, pre-Quiet Man artistic persona. Certainly this song of animal passion would have been out of place on any of his albums post-1977. But the subtext of animal attraction was just another way of parsing Foxx’s favorite Ballardian theme with the wild reclaiming the civilized. This time using a trope from the 20th century [“Me Tarzan – You Jane”] that’s even older than Foxx.

As was the guitar of Robin Simon with his trademark Post-Punk flanging driving a modal guitar line sweeping through the urban jungle environment of the song at rakish angles. The climax where Foxx’s synths duel on the outro with his sharp riffage while Benge kept the New Wave back beat was definitely my kind of throwback. The last two and a half minutes of the album version expanded the instrumental interplay between the synths and guitars; occasionally dropping out for the back beat to come to the fore before allowing the guitars and distorted violins to let the song ultimately dissipate its erotic energy with its forces now spent.

Next: …Back From The Shadows

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Want List: The 40th Anniversary Boxed Set of God Of Ultravox’s “Vienna” Is Nearing Launch

ultravox ©1980 brian griffin vienna session

Outtake from “Vienna” cover session ©1980 Brian Griffin

Well after much ado, and chatter outside this blog, the mooted 40th Anniversary BSOG of Ultravox’s seminal “Vienna” album is getting ready for launch on the 25th of September, 2020. Approximately 40 years on from its initial release, which was actually July 11th, 1980. I encountered the band and music in September of that year when I happened to see the “Passing Strangers” video on “Hollywood Heartbeat.” So for this American, yes, it’s close to exactly 40 years and damn, I sure feel the sweep of that time as if it were only yesterday.

I was thrilled beyond compare once I finally heard this band I’d know of in name only. This was the Synthesizer Rock I had been waiting for. This made Gary Numan sound like the amateur he was. I had a hard time finding a copy of “Vienna” in Central Florida. That was number one with a bullet for months until I was in a Charleston, SC Musicland and finally saw the album for sale. My nascent Record Cell had a new tentpole as of then as the band swiftly became the foundation of my way forward. I quickly went backwards with the band’s earlier albums and sideways, with Visage and the solo John Foxx material also available on import. And I loved it all, dearly.

So now, 12 years after releasing “Definitive Editions” of “Vienna” and declaring “there’s nothing left in the cupboard” we have the modern SDLX boxed edition tempting us with its wares. But with the industry imploded, it’s nothing so cut and dried as one format or another. There are several different formats; with differing content in each. But if you know PPM, you’ll know that I’m all over CD format. I have numerous Vienna editions on LP and CD, but this time I’m ignoring the vinyl. Your mileage may vary. What’s at stake? New stuff previously unreleased  in red.

vienns CD boxed set 40th anniversary

Warner Music Group | UK | 5xCD + DVD-A | 2020

Ultravox: Vienna 40th Anniversary BOX – UK – 5xCD + DVD [2020]

CD 1 – Vienna [Original 1980 Analogue Master]

  1. Astradyne
  2. New Europeans
  3. Private Lives
  4. Passing Strangers
  5. Sleepwalk
  6. Mr. X
  7. Western Promise
  8. Vienna
  9. All Stood Still

CD 2 –  Vienna [Steven Wilson Stereo Mix]

  1. Astradyne
  2. New Europeans
  3. Private Lives
  4. Passing Strangers
  5. Sleepwalk
  6. Mr. X
  7. Western Promise
  8. Vienna
  9. All Stood Still
  10. Waiting
  11. Passionate Reply
  12. Alles Klar
  13. Herr X

CD 3 – Rarities: Singles/B-Sides/Live

  1. Sleepwalk [Early Version]
  2. Waiting
  3. Face To Face [Live in St Albans 16/8/1980]
  4. King’s Lead Hat [Live at The Lyceum 17/8/1980]
  5. Vienna [Single Version]
  6. Passionate Reply
  7. Herr X
  8. All Stood Still [Single Version]
  9. Alles Klar
  10. Keep Talking [Cassette Recording During Rehearsals]
  11. All Stood Still [12” Mix]
  12. Sleepwalk [Soundcheck, The Lyceum 17/8/1980]
  13. All Stood Still [Soundcheck, The Lyceum 17/8/1980]
  14. Vienna [Live Video Version, St Albans City Hall 16/8/80]
  15. Sleepwalk [Live Video Version, St Albans City Hall 16/8/80]

CD 4 – Cassette Recordings During Rehearsals 1979/80

  1. Astradyne
  2. New Europeans (Instrumental)
  3. Private Lives (Instrumental)
  4. Passing Strangers (Instrumental 1)
  5. Sleepwalk (Version 1)
  6. Mr. X
  7. Western Promise
  8. Vienna
  9. All Stood Still (Instrumental 1)
  10. Sound On Sound
  11. Animal
  12. Sleepwalk (Version 2)
  13. Sound On Sound (Instrumental)
  14. Passing Strangers (Instrumental 2)
  15. All Stood Still (Instrumental 2)

CD 5 – Live in St. Albans 1980

  1. Astradyne
  2. New Europeans
  3. Passing Strangers
  4. Quiet Men
  5. Face To Face
  6. Mr. X
  7. Western Promise
  8. Vienna
  9. Slow Motion
  10. Hiroshima Mon Amour
  11. All Stood Still
  12. Sleepwalk
  13. Private Lives
  14. King’s Lead Hat

Disc 6 – DVD [Audio Only]

Vienna album – Steven Wilson Mix
96/24 5.1 Surround Sound Mix
DTS 96/24 5.1 Surround Mix
DOLBY AC3 5.1 Surround Mix
9624 LPCM Stereo Mix

B-sides – Steven Wilson Mix
96/24 5.1 Surround Sound Mix
DTS 96/24 5.1 Surround Mix
DOLBY AC3 5.1 Surround Mix
9624 LPCM Stereo Mix

Vienna album – 1980 Original Analog Master
9624 LPCM Stereo Mix

B-sides – 1980 Original Analog Master
9624 LPCM Stereo Mix

As we can see there’s a decent heft to this. A hard 12″ x 12″ box with 20 pp. LP sized booklet of notes/photos and 4 A4 art prints. Steven Wilson has been engaged to provide a 5.1 remix on DVD and they are also including his 2.0 mix of the album which was a by-product of the 5.1 process. Thorough. The DVD has every variant of the versions of the album [and its B-sides!] in 5.1 and 2.0 in high-res 96/24 quality, so this will be conceivably the hottest mastering of “Vienna” ever issued. Of course with 40 year old master tapes, we know baking has happened, if Conny Plank [R.I.P.] used Ampex tape. But this could be revelatory. I only wish that they had done DSD mastering of the project as well. My mind shudders to consider a DSD stream of this music.

Disc 3 is largely a rehash of disc two of the “definitive edition” but even there were a couple of live video soundtracks and the 7″ edits of “All Stood Still” and “Vienna” added for maximum thoroughness. I’m wary about disc four. The “Keep Talking” B-side was from a rehearsal cassette and it sounded really rough. A whole disc of that kind of material may be tough going, even if they did salt it with a few tracks that never fully developed into songs we would recognize. [“Animal,” “Sound  On Sound”]

the very best of ultravox cover artIt’s the live album from the UK tour on disc five that I am the most interested in. Chrysalis filmed two tracks at the St. Alban’s gig [“Sleepwalk” + “Vienna”] and those videos were included on the bonus DVD included with “The Very Best of Ultravox” CD/DVD combo released in 2009. These were hot ones all right. Ultravox from their early era without laptops and MIDI to fall back on, yet still heavily synthetic. Excitement! And the most intriguing thing about this gig was that it came from their first tour with Midge Ure, so the band dipped back into the Foxx era for the first and last time as they only had so much material to play. So Midge Ure sang “Slow Motion,” “Hiroshima Mon Amour,” And “Quiet Men.” I’ve wanted to hear this event for 40 years and the end of the road’s in sight now. The US price of this is $69. Not bad for 6 discs. More affordable than I expected on hearing that this was coming.

Of course, there are other formats made out of PVC, if you must. The 4x LP in clear vinyl is extreme eye candy but I won’t be partaking. There’s only so much money in my budget and the days of buying every Ultravox record ended in years ago. But here’s the package.

vidnna clear cinyl 4oth anniversary box cover art

Warner Music Group | UK | 4xLP | 2020

Ultravox: Vienna 40th Anniversary BOX – UK – 4xLP [clear vinyl] [2020]

LP 1: Vienna/B-sides

Side 1

  1. Astradyne
  2. New Europeans
  3. Private Lives
  4. Passing Strangers
  5. Sleepwalk

Side 2

  1. Mr. X
  2. Western Promise
  3. Vienna
  4. All Stood Still

Side 3

  1. Waiting
  2. Face To Face [Live in St Albans 16/8/1980]
  3. King’s Lead Hat [Live at The Lyceum 17/8/1980]
  4. Vienna [US Promotional Edit]
  5. Passionate Reply

Side 4

  1. Herr X
  2. All Stood Still [Single Version]
  3. Alles Klar
  4. Keep Talking [Cassette Recording During Rehearsals]

LP 2: Live in St. Albans 1980

Side 1

  1. Astradyne
  2. New Europeans
  3. Passing Strangers
  4. Quiet Men

Side 2

  1. Face To Face
  2. Mr. X
  3. Western Promise
  4. Vienna

Side 3

  1. Slow Motion
  2. Hiroshima Mon Amour

Side 4

  1. All Stood Still
  2. Sleepwalk
  3. Private Lives
  4. King’s Lead Hat

This LP box is attractive, sporting clear vinyl, so critical to the Ultravox mystique. And the LPs were half-speed mastered for better fidelity [or you could just buy the CD/DVD packs – just saying] And the Live @ St. Albans album has a nice, large, discrete cover design in the “Vienna” house style that we can see better here in this pack shot. All of the B-sides were also included with the original 1980 album and if you look closely, they’ve salted the LP edition with a previously unreleased US promo- edit of “Vienna.” The US price of this is $72.00. There are 500 of these being made so if this has your name on it, act quickly.

If vinyl is calling your name and your budget is smaller, the humble black vinyl 2xLP is nothing to sneeze at.

ultravox vienna 2xLP 40th anniversary black vinyl

Warner Music Group | UK | 2xLP | 2020

Ultravox: Vienna 40th Anniversary – UK – 2xLP [2020]

LP 1: Vienna/B-sides

Side 1

  1. Astradyne
  2. New Europeans
  3. Private Lives
  4. Passing Strangers
  5. Sleepwalk

Side 2

  1. Mr. X
  2. Western Promise
  3. Vienna
  4. All Stood Still

Side 3

  1. Waiting
  2. Face To Face [Live in St Albans 16/8/1980]
  3. King’s Lead Hat [Live at The Lyceum 17/8/1980]
  4. Vienna [US Promotional Edit]
  5. Passionate Reply

Side 4

  1. Herr X
  2. All Stood Still [Single Version]
  3. Alles Klar
  4. Keep Talking [Cassette Recording During Rehearsals]

This is the same package as LP 1 of the boxed version, but the cover has a red obi variation unique to this edition. I can’t say if it’s an actual obi or just a print variation. And the US “Vienna” promo edit is still here. These professionals know what they are doing to pry that money out of our tight purses! This one is not a limited edition but the $32 cost is more modest. What will I do? Usually I grouse about how I can’t afford this, that, or the other thing. But the fact is that “Vienna” is one of my most crucial albums. I have to get this, but at least I found an online dealer discounting the pre-order at a more modest $57.00! And while I was poking around at said dealer, I checked and saw the Prince SOTT box at a senses shattering $113 pre-order, so I bit the bullet and pre-ordered both. Expect full coverage in October. Meanwhile, if these call out to you, the Official Ultravox Store has many bundle variations with t-shirts in the mix as well. Click that button…

post-punk monk buy button– 30 –

 

Posted in Core Collection, DVD, Live Music, New Romantic, Scots Rock, Want List | Tagged , , , , , | 19 Comments

Record Review: Brian Eno – Here Come the Warm Jets [part 3]

eno and fripp ca 1973

Frip + Eno… two great tastes that taste great together!

[…continued from last post]

Eno’s Roxy Music brethern Manzanera + Mackay were all over this album, but even drummer Paul Thompson got into the act on the comically morose “Dead Finks Don’t Talk.” He built a marching rhythm that featured Eno’s deadpan voice over [you couldn’t call it singing] reciting the lyrics. At least until he burst into a vivid impersonation of Mr. Ferry for the delivery of a single line that came from nowhere. Eno was buttonholed by mixer Chris Thomas who was certain that it was a riposte at the Roxy Music leader while  claiming innocence, until he listened to the track and realized that subconsciously, “Dead Finks” was about his former bandmate. His quavering vibrato left it all but chiseled in stone.

Elsewhere, Eno had fun adopting a flat American staff announcer voice juxtaposed by an angelic choir of his own voice multiplied numerous times. The middle eight found Thompson adopting a cha-cha rhythm; giving it a subtle “Louie Louie” flair while Eno pingponged around in the stereo field to syncopated handclaps. The outro to this queer little song was an abrupt hard cut into what sounded like a dying calliope only capable of one grinding note as it note valiantly tried to approximate music for about 30 seconds.

Then another jump cut into the next song happened. “Some Of The Are Old” had a tripartite structure with Andy Mackay’s saxes multitracked into a septet while Eno crooned vaguely Barrett-esque psychedelic lyrics in the first third. The second third was dominated by a very rural-sounding slide dobro solo by Lloyd Watson, who would go one to work with Eno/Manzanera/Mackay in their amazing 801 project. The came the big finale where Eno was multitracked into a truly glorious chorale to sit with all of Mackay’s saxes. At that point it truly felt like the album had climaxed, and it always surprises me when it continued for the last song.

The title track was built on the concept of Eno’s metaphor for the guitars as he envisioned them with a sound like “warm” jet engines. But you, me, and the lamp post couldn’t have failed to notice the prominent positioning of a pornographic playing card on the album’s cover featuring a woman [presumably] urinating. A warm jet of a different kind, ahem. But the guitars did sound impressive. Paul Rudolph of The Pink Fairies was the man responsible though the treatment by Eno gave the playing the texture of a phalanx of expertly tuned kazoos in perfect harmony.

The guitars had the spotlight to themselves for a while before Simon King’s Moon-esque drums were sloooooowly faded up while Eno began singing the verses that sounded so full of hope and promise. It sounded so anthemic, that it hardly mattered that the drums seemed to be paying in a different song [and possibly tempo] to the rest of the music. But hearing them come in was still exciting. This was a song whose vibe just stuck to me all day after hearing it. It’s playing in my mind right now. It will continue unspooling until hour later, I’m sure. It was a bold ending to a bold album.


It covered so much ground that it felt like it was concluding at the end of track eight before it’s abrupt coda shifted the focus into “Some Of Them Are Old” as a sort of “bonus round.” Then as that song climaxed it felt conclusive. I cannot believe that I still keep expecting the album to end faster than it did but the last two songs always seem like gifts to these ears. Eno’s gift to the wider musical spectrum was that he inspired a lot of creative thinking on the part of the musicians that followed who were open to applying their intellect to the process of songwriting. So much so that I once read a review of an early XTC album as typified as “Post-Eno Pop.” That’s a fair assessment and I listen to bands like Shriekback taking Eno inspiration and moving off down a different path of their own.

“Here Comes The Warm Jets” was an album on a very, very small shelf that it happened to share only with the debut album by Yello, “Solid Pleasure.” For as many fantastic albums that I’ve heard over the years, those two were in a class all of their own. Both albums were the products of idiosyncratic artists and were wildly eclectic and owed little to the prevailing trends and mores of the day. This was an album that built a whole new world to explore and whose songs were all different from each other, yet coalescing into an impressive whole. Listening to this album felt like an adventure had just taken place. One where traditions [melody, beauty, aggression] sat cheek-by-jowl with the very idea of dismantling traditions. Leading to stimulating juxtapositions and frissons of wonder that still manage to weave their spell after 40 years of listening on my part.

– 30 –

 

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Record Review: Brian Eno – Here Come the Warm Jets [part 2]

eno altering bass with ems synth

Eno loved running instruments through the EMS synth

[…continued from last post]

The next track was “Cindy Tells Me;” a 50s bobby-sox throwback like aspects of some of the less outré material from the first Roxy Music album. The dreamy backing vocals were swoon-worthy, but the fly in the ointment manifested when at first the distorted feedback from the guitar line manifested in front of the actual guitar itself. The harsh, metallic noise sounded like a cicada from hell had blown out the song before the feedback faded out, eventually leaving the guitar chord. No one else would dare to disrupt a carefully crafted mood like that but Brian Eno was born to disrupt.The lyrical imagery of white goods rusting in the kitchen very distinctive.

“Cindy tells me, the rich girls are weeping
Cindy tells me, they’ve given up sleeping alone
And now they’re so confused by their new freedoms
And she tells me they’re selling up their maisonettes
Left the Hotpoints to rust in the kitchenettes
And they’re saving their labour for insane reading” – Cindy Tells Me

After that almost throwback tune, it was time for something a little more avant garde. “Driving Me Backwards” was possibly the most anxiety-provoking piece of music I’d ever heard. Based on a two note piano figure that plodded like the Bataan Death March, if proffered a grinding nihilism that perversely, stimulated me. The distorted wah wah guitar by Robert Fripp was the only part of this song that didn’t necessarily sound “backwards. Eno’s vocals featured berserk phrasing and inflection that suggested to me that he might have taken a composition, made a tape of it, threaded it in backwards, and played the reversed music to build the basis of a new composition around. Did he? Let’s listen to an excerpt below.

The quick listen is inconclusive on his vocal melody, but it’s readily apparent that the music bed [and possibly the guitar solo of Fripp] sounded almost the same, whether played forwards or backwards! Making this possibly palindromic music.

“Side two” opened with the most lush and glorious pop imaginable with “On Some Faraway Beach;” the first of three songs with no guitars in them here. The long buildup of pianos on the track [there are 27 piano tracks layered on top of each other] took its good, sweet time to reach a plateau before Eno’s dreamy vocals began the lyrical portion of the song. It’s such a melancholy swirl of a song, but I have to admit, every time I have ever listened to this song from 1973, my pop music brain associated it with a song from five year later. And a very different artist.

The opening of “On Some faraway Beach” sounds like Bob Seger just cut and pasted it to form one of his biggest hits in “Still the Same.” I wish I could embed the first 30 seconds of each song here, but I can’t really. But trust me; they are amazingly congruent visions. The melody and vibe are almost identical. Which leads to the notion of Bob Seger listening to Brian Eno five years before writing the “Stranger In Town” album! Which lead to disbelief. But I loved the symmetry of how Eno faded out the rich synths and layers of piano to leave only a single piano melody in the outro.

When those last four notes come to a brief halt, our senses were then assaulted by the most aggressive transition possible in the next split second as the insane “Blank Frank” began like an unexpected jolt of acid in the face!

Robert Fripp was back with even more attitude [if possible], and this time Eno was driving his guitar through his synths, maximizing the waves of raw aggression that it generated tenfold. Eno’s vocals were as nasal as they had been on “Baby’s On Fire,” but it was his backing vocals that consisted entirely of sinister, rhythmic laughter [of the most mocking kind imaginable] that took this track waaaaay over the top. And the lyrics were more concrete than usual as they painted a very psychotic picture of this titular Frank. “He is the one who will look at you sideways – His particular skill was leaving bombs in people’s driveways.” All of this conspired to make this an insanely aggressive track and the overdriven Bo Diddley beat with handclap rhythms like a psychopathic game of pattycake underneath made certain that that you knew that this song was playing.

Next: …An Effete Slap In The Face?

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Record Review: Brian Eno – Here Come the Warm Jets [part 1]

brian eno - here come the warm jets LP cover art

E’G/Caroline Records | US | CD | 1994 | EGCD 11

Brian Eno: Here Come The Warm Jets – US – CD [1994]

  1. Needles In A Camel’s Eye
  2. The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch
  3. Baby’s On Fire
  4. Cindy Tells Me
  5. Driving Me Backwards
  6. On Some Faraway Beach
  7. Blank Frank
  8. Dead Finks Don’t Talk
  9. Some Of Them Are Old
  10. Here Come The Warm Jets

There are some albums that just take my breath away with the ease in which they tear up rule books and create coherent worlds within their grooves. Brian Eno’s first album, “Here Come The Warm Jets,” is one such album. In 1981 I was aware of Eno’s reputation. I knew he had been an early member of Roxy Music, but had yet to experience those first two albums. By that time I certainly had many of the classic albums that he had produced; “Ultravox!,” “More Songs About Buildings + Food,” “Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are DEVO!,” “Fear Of Music,” and “Remain In Light” all come immediately to mind. But I had heard none of his solo material, apart from his “Ambient II: Plateaux Of Mirror” with Harold Budd when chasinvictoria bought it in late 1980. As we knew of Eno’s reputation, that one blindsided us at first before we grew accustomed to its modest beauty.

I was listening to WUSF-FM’s amazing Friday late night New Wave ghetto radio show that exposed me to numerous wonderful artists, when I chanced to hear Eno’s track “Baby’s On Fire.” I could barely receive the signal 80 miles away in Orlando, but the show was good enough to be taping even with severe FM static as the low poser signal struggled to reach my ears. Stunned, I listened to that tape many times afterward and I think that I dubbed a poor sounding copy of the song and sent it to chasinvictoria on one of our marathon tape letters we used to send when he had moved away from Orlando after graduation.

It was shortly afterward when he sent back a C-90 with “Here Come The Warm Jets” on one side and “Taking Tiger Mountain [By Strategy]” on the other. We were now fully Enocentric! When “My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts” was released in spring of 1981, it was an event. We went back to look into those Fripp + Eno albums that were so intriguing. It was my graduation present to myself in 1985, when I bought the then new “Brian Eno: Working Backwards 1983-1973” boxed set of god with 10 solo albums and an EP of rarities [half unreleased] for the then astounding price of around $120 if memory serves. “Music For Films Vol. 2” was exclusive to the box, as was the EP. Well, one doesn’t graduate college every day. All of this music was fascinating, but it all had a starting point, which had been the utterly amazing “Here Come The Warm Jets.”


Drop the needle [or laser] on this album and “Needles In The Camel’s Eye” bolts startlingly from the gate on the one; as if it were already in progress and you were just catching up. The mix [by Eno and Chris Thomas] was dense with elements jostling for sonic position with Eno’s multi-tracked vocals mixed at a similar level with everything else. It seemed muddy due to the indifference to separation and more concerned with the overall gestalt of its impact, which was profound. This was 2:45 that grabbed you by the lapels and pulled you along for the joyride. There’s a reason why Todd Haynes chose this song to open up “Velvet Goldmine” with scenes of glamrok teens running wild in the streets in a frenzy of velocity and barely contained energy.

The twin guitars of Phil Manzanera and Chris Spedding compete for the spotlight with what I’m assuming was Manzanera filling the song with atmosphere and rhythm droning while Spedding proffered twangy, Duane Eddy licks that seemed beamed in from another universe. Eno was on record as having spent as much time composing the free-form lyrics as he had singing them, so this resulting song was simply a thrilling exercise in form for form’s sake. But that would be Eno’s tactic throughout his career. For an artist as indifferent to lyric content as he was, it’s not altogether surprising that he eventually went on to eschew them altogether for many, many years. The drum breaks where the song dropped out entirely for a bar at a time in the middle eight was just a case of Eno having some exhilarating fun on his first ever album of Rock music.

The second song was completely different. The mannered delivery of Eno in the plumiest of voices over the splendid, yet hardly eccentric music bed was a far cry from the exhilarating start that “Needles In The Camel’s Eye” had been. But given the bizarre subject matter of “The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch” perhaps discretion was the better part of valor? Once Eno got to providing the synth solo on the middle eight, all bets were off as the song suddenly went “off road” in the most left field way possible. The solo sounded like a gleefully cheerful dolphin making random notes that bent in every direction that shouldn’t have worked as a solo save for the expert syncopation of the notes attack with the rhythm of the song.

Then the song circled back to a return to its main themes with some berserk rhythm guitar slathered with distortion effects as Eno climaxed the song  with his curiously lilting, double tracked harmonies. Leaving the song to fade on a synth loop that segued right into the next song. And what a song! The synth loop gained tension with some cymbals before the song stopped momentarily for a beat, to allow Eno to begin singing the incomparable “Baby’s On Fire.” And he sang in the most aggressively nasal phrasing possible; simply dripping with vicious contempt. The song was breathtaking for its aggressive pose… and that was sufficient to be riveting… but then Robert Fripp began his guitar solo.

robert fripp in 1973

Don’t let the calm exterior of Robert Fripp ’73 fool you… inside lurks the heart of a beast

On “Baby’s On Fire,” Robert Fripp provided perhaps the only guitar solo you’ll ever need.

Not just any guitar solo, but the most face-melting guitar solo ever committed to wax! He kept up the aggressive pressure for a full three minutes while Eno kept the energy of the song flowing beneath the torrent of guitar like an underground river. The palpable hostility of the solo is beyond anything else I’ve heard on guitar. Legend had it that Eno directed the musicians playing on this album by movement and interpretive dance. One could barely imagine any human movement translating into this solo, that sprayed the listener with flecks of white-hot spittle; halfway on its way to steam. After the three minutes of Fripp pulverizing the listener, Eno returned for the last verse but wisely giving the last word to Fripp who ended the track with one last strangulated burst of his devastating guitar.

Next: …Urgent/Anxious

 

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REVO Remastering: Claudia Brücken – Comprehension Vol. 1

claudia brücken - comprehension mix disc cover art

REVO | US | CD-R | 2020 | REVO 031A

Claudia Brücken: Comprehension Vol. 1 – US – CD-R [2020]

  1. Dr. Mabuse [Razormaid remix]
  2. When Your Heart Runs Out Of Time
  3. Snobbery + Decay [Moonlighting Mix I]
  4. When Your Heart Runs Out Of Time [12” ver.]
  5. I Can’t Escape From You [Razormaid remix]
  6. Snobbery + Decay [Moonlighting Mix II]
  7. Poison [single remix]
  8. Absolut[e] [Razormaid remix]
  9. Snobbery + Decay [Instant 1]
  10. Kiss Like Ether [Razormaid remix]
  11. Snobbery + Decay [Instant 2]
  12. I’ll Find A Way [Andrew Brix Variable Club remix]
  13. Fanatic [The Nail In My Soul] [Razormaid remix]

Waaaaay back in 2004, I made a Claudia Brücken CD that compiled most of the remixes from her then last album; 1991’s “Love: And A Million Other Things.”  It had the hard to source “Bastille Mix” of “Absolut[e]” and a pair of Razormaid mixes that were in house. “Fanatic [The Nail In My Soul]” and “I Can’t Escape From You.” It did the job it needed to do, but six years hence, Cherry Red came out with the ideal DLX RM of “Love: And  A Million Other Things” that wrapped up everything in a nice, tidy bow. There was not much reason for this comp to have a continued existence…unless one looked at the other music I’d gotten from Ms. Brücken since 2004 that had no central home as of yet.

razormaid propaganda dr. mabuse remix labelI decided to revisit the comp earlier this year and kick it into the future with a new compilation of loose tracks that needed a home for easy listening. I’d gotten a lot more Razormaid mixes since then. I stumbled onto the issue with “Dr. Mabuse” and this needed a home! I managed to render the track serviceable thanks to Click-Repair. I had put the 7″/12″ of the single that Brücken had recorded with Glenn Gregory on the Heaven 17 BSOG I’d [re]made in 2009, so it made sense to also deposit the vinyl-only tracks here.

act - snobbery + decay promo remix label

One of the major items I’d bought in the ‘noughts was the White label promo 12″ of “Snobbery + Decay” from Act with four remixes that weren’t included in the awe-inspiring 3xCD BSOG of “Act’s “Laughter, Tears + Rage – The Anthology.” The mostly instrumental mixes were minor mixes, heavy on the Latin percussion, but still pretty scarce on the ground.  I spread these into the disc; avoiding the problem of “remix clumping.”

I was checking the Discogs.com database on Claudia Brücken; making sure I didn’t miss anything that didn’t immediately come to mind, and was severely embarrassed to find that I had a Brücken “buried treasure” in my collection for at least 30 years!!! I really love collecting Claudia Brücken. I have many pressings of “Snobbery + Decay” to my name. To wit:

act - snobbery + decay UK 7" cover art

ZTT | UK | 7″ | 1987 | ZTAS 28

The 7″ single.

act snobbery + decay UK 12" cover art

ZTT | UK | 12″ | 1987 | 12ZTAS 28

The 12″ single.

act snobbery + decay gatwefold UK 12" cover art

ZTT | UK | 12″ | 1987 | 12 ZACT 28

The gatefold 12″ single.

act snobbery + decay UK remix + poster 12" cover art

ZTT | UK | 12″ | 1987 | 12 XACT 28

The remix 12″ [with poster].

act - snobbery + decay promo remix label

ZTT | UK Promo | 12″ | 1987 | CT 01

The white label promo remixes.

act snobbery + decay UK CD-5 cover art

ZTT | UK | CD5″ | 1987 | CID 28

The holy CD-5 version.

I’ve had the CD-5 since it came out. Around 1990 I bought all of the UK commercial 12″/7″ variations from a catalog. Because. I never played the vinyl remixes more than once upon buying them. I was waiting to make my own CD which never happened due to the Anthology box of the album which collected 95% of these mixes. I never played the B-side of “Poison” from anything but the CD-5/album CD. The album had a version of “Poison” identical to what was on the CD-5. 12 XACT 28 had a labelled remix of the B-side, called “Strong Poison.” I played that a few times.

What I didn’t know until 2020 was that the other 12″ records had a unique mix of “Poison” which I now duly digitized and included in this compilation. My embarrassment levels were off the map for this one. Again, when I play records [which isn’t often, it’s true…], I make sure to digitize each track on the server in at least raw form so that I don’t miss anything. But I had not played these tracks yet and thus was in the dark.

the brain i'll =find a way german white label promo 12"I had a German white label 12″ of “I’ll Find A Way” with three mixes by The Brain, which reunited Claudia and Michael Mertens with The Brain. Two of the mixes were trance mixes, but the Andrew Brix Variable Club Mix was more my style, and it found a berth here. I had also originally included the very trancy “Jam El Mar” mix, but a late in the game realization that  I had another Razormaid remix to include motivated me into shaking up the track listing late in the game.

razormaid how slow can you go USP LPIn 2016, I’d bought this record, and had not played it since buying therefore it had not imprinted itself in my mind. The knowledge of which eventually jolted my senses into swapping out the 11 minute trance mix for the 7″ of “When Your Heart Runs Out Of Time” and this Razormaid remix of “Kiss Like Ether,” One of my all time favorite Brücken songs. I had almost forgotten that I had the “Absolut[e]” Razormaid mix up front in this revisit, but to forget this was just highly embarrassing!

claudia brucken cd booklet design

Claudia Brücken hosted many great archival photos of her through the years

My next step was to take the cover from ca. 2004 1-sided insert to how I like to roll these days. Full booklets and liner notes are de riguer! Ms. Brücken hosted a plethora of excellent promo shots [many not used but very cool] on her website. So these were a welcome sight. With the lineup changing several times as I worked my way through re-compiling this one, I had to re-do the liner notes each time, but at last it’s finished!

claudia brucken CD back insert

I still used the water motif but offset it with a promo shot intended for the “Fanatic” single that never got a release

The back insert was pretty perfunctory from 2004. Something I threw together in 10 minutes with the single sleeves on it.  I used the great B+W shots for the planned but never made sleeve for “Fanatic [The Nail In My Soul],” which only got a french promo 7″ release in a generic Island sleeve. These were too good not to use with Ms. Brücken sporting a triangular eye patch; looking very bauhaus. So vVolume 1 of “Comprehension” is done. As I get more Brücken rarities, I can just craft more volumes until such time as I may compile them all into a box. I have enough loose tracks and DLs of digital only-music for at least another two right now.

– 30 –

 

 

 

Posted in Buried Treasures, Core Collection, Remastering | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments