Weekly Obsessions: Three-Letter Rock Composer “Brian”

brianeno-theshipAhoy there, fellow passengers of the good ship “Rock.” I sail into a lot of “ports” in my search for the best new rock music, but only a few of them yield treasure. The rest are just boxes of “Fool’s Good” amidst a bunch of long-ago-activated booby traps. Some of them still have skeleton arms wedged between their razor-sharp jaws.

But, like a child’s untimely death in a Protestant family, we gloss over these fruitless voyages and never, ever, ever mention them again. Of course, we do so while holding the remaining siblings to impossible standards (I’ll never be like Kevin, okay, Dad? He was a brilliant chemist and a toothpaste model, but you have to let him go. Forcing me to wear his clothes while you drink whiskey through his old football helmet doesn’t help anything).

Wow, I think that whole metaphor got away from me for a second. I think I was trying to convey the fact that when one is looking for new music, leaving oneself open to anything necessarily sets one up for disappointment some of the time. For those of us who don’t get paid (at least in part) to explore new music, the impetus to branch out can be fairly weak to non-existent.

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This is why so many music fans tend to return to artists with whom they are familiar; these artists represent a “safe space” for the listener that allows them to relax. For a writer like myself, reviewing a new release by a band I already like allows me to at least forgo the research process (I like a little bit of background on an artist before I listen to the actual music).

Long story short, when I heard Brian Eno had a new record out that was both ambient and vocal, I jumped at the chance to check it out. The great thing about Eno is that no matter how familiar you are with his catalog (I am medium-familiar), each new album represents a complete departure from the previous offering. There is no “safe space” with Eno, as (like frequent-collaborating-Davids Bowie and Byrne) he is constantly evolving. His latest, The Ship, is more reminiscent of his Ambient series than his pop-oriented late 70’s period. In other words, if you like Eno’s glam rock contributions, possibly look elsewhere. For those of you still hanging out, tracks like “Fickle Sun (i)” showcase Eno’s vocal instrument and gift for textured tones equally. As a bonus, just when you think you’ve got this album pegged, the last track gradually morphs into a Velvet Underground homage. I try to listen to every new Brian Eno album (not necessarily albums he produced, as that would require me listening to U2) just to familiarize myself with whatever this latest incarnation delivers.

Though Eno is far from predictable, he has been a reliably interesting artist for 40 years now. Actually, his lack of predictability has become the only reliable thing about him, for better or worse. In this, 2016, The Year Where All Musicians Die, I advise Maximum Eno Retention while it is still possible.

Because after Prince, literally anyone is fair game. Especially those that you hold dear.

Jackson Browne, watch your back.

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