[…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 Them 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 –
There’s not much I can add to this at this point, except to agree that this is one of those small number of albums that absolutely thrills me to hear each and every time, 47 (!!) years later.
Bravo (as always), Mr. Monk! Your three-part review of this masterpiece is a delight to read. For my money, Here Come the Warm Jets is the greatest solo debut album of the Seventies.
“On Some Faraway Beach,” which you correctly describe as “the most lush and glorious pop imaginable,” is my favorite Eno song. If I recall correctly, Eno once claimed to have heard the music for this composition in a dream. I wish I had dreams like that.
I’m especially impressed by the way the track’s swelling keyboards and pounding percussion simulate the spray and crash of ocean waves on a shore. This is a great “liquid” song. Your Seger idea is most intriguing, and I’ll raise you a Bruce Springsteen. The only comparable “liquid” song I can think of at the moment is the Boss’s “Tunnel of Love,” which I also consider to be a masterpiece. I love the way that “Tunnel”’s keyboards and drums simulate a boat floating through dark passages on a guideway. The song is constructed like a real tunnel of love, even to the point of containing a climactic splashdown. I’ve undoubtedly diminished any coolness quotient I might possess here by invoking Springsteen, but I do believe that he really outdid himself with that particular song.
Incidentally, have you read Eric Tamm’s marvelous “Brian Eno: His Music and the Vertical Color of Sound?” If not, I highly recommend this volume. Also, I’m curious if you’ve heard Bardo Pond’s truly epic rendition of “Here Come the Warm Jets.” This is my nominee for the greatest Eno cover version of all-time. It, along with “On Some Faraway Beach” and “Tunnel of Love,” deserves to hang on the walls of the Museum of Modern Art.
Hope you and yours are staying safe in all this mess!
James Pagan – My completely with-it spouse bought me “Brian Eno: His Music and the Vertical Color of Sound” some years back when it came out! Need to hear the DL that came with that again as I can’t remember it.