Brian Eno - Here Come The Warm Jets

by Kevin Orton Rating:9 Release Date:1974-01-05

Full confession, I’m not a huge fan of Eno’s ambient works such as Music For Airports. I’m not going to sit here and play detractor. That work certainly has its merits. Truth is, it’s just not my bag. That said, I find his first three solo albums to be out of this world.  

Here Come The Warm Jets came out in 1974 a year after Eno parted ways with Roxy Music. And it certainly takes its cue from For Your Pleasure. But here, Eno flexes his muscles and his oblique strategies reach far beyond Bryan Ferry’s wildest dreams. That said, he essentially enlisted Roxy Music (sans Ferry) but threw them together with the likes of Robert Fripp and Chris Spedding. His idea was to bring an odd assortment together who essentially had nothing in common musically and see what would happen. The results could be called, seminal and groundbreaking, but they’re also a lot of fun. It’s clear Eno’s tongue was firmly in cheek and wasn't about to do anything as indulgent as take himself too seriously. According to the maestro, he would “dance” his instructions of how he wanted a particular part played. Then, would mix and treat the results until they were virtually unrecognizable from what was laid down. There are sounds on this record that were hitherto unknown to the 20th Century and yet, it all bears approachable semblance to the Glam Rock Eno helped usher in. It’s not that Eno’s compositions themselves reinvented the wheel, it’s how they were produced, treated and sound that remains innovative. Rumor is the album title refers to urination but Eno has set the record straight by relating it refers to a guitar treatment he came up for the album.

The lyrics to the opener, ‘Needle In The Camel’s Eye’ were reportedly written in a few minutes. Eno has described it as an instrumental with words. Regardless, it’s as infectious as any Pop tune out there at the time. Which in the end, might just be the point. Still, elements sound otherworldly to this day, as if one's suddenly stepped into a futuristic dance party, cutting a rug with the robot from Metropolis.

‘The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch’ is based off a real personage, and imagines a love triangle with a circus freak, a literal human torch.  Musically, things are not only on fire but contagious as hell. There are some sounds on here that would later pave the way for countless other artists and bands including David Bowie and Echo and The Bunnymen.

‘Baby’s On Fire’ is about as playful and sarcastic as Eno gets. Who knows what the hell he’s talking about but one can gleam it’s about the artistic, baptism by fire Eno is undertaking with this record. “The temperature’s rising and any idiot will know that,” he concludes. That blistering guitar, could only come from Robert Fripp.

Eno once quipped everyone who heard the Velvet Underground started a band, and ‘Cindy Tells Me’ is an unabashed nod to Lou and The Velvets. Despite this, the treated guitars give the song a sound all its own. One can later hear its influence on Bowie’s, ‘Boys Keep Swinging’. Eno’s vocals managing to sound both robotic and heartfelt.

‘Driving Me Backwards’ is an exercise in pure experimentation. Close on the heels, the ruminative ‘Some Far Away Beach’ hints at what Eno would later lay down with Another Green World. A song that harks back to a bygone era, yet sounds undeniably modern. It’s the closest one gets to a traditional ballad on the album.

One listen to the vocals on the anarchic, ‘Blank Frank’ and one can’t help but ponder its influence on a young John Lydon. One could easily call this track Punk or Post Punk. Without a doubt, the founders of Wire and Gang of Four were lending an ear to this one.

One of my personal favorites is ‘Dead Finks Don’t Talk’. It’s hard to describe this sardonic mix of poison pen letter and Lounge. Eno crooning at times in parody of what can only be Bryan Ferry. Any way you cut it, it’s the sound of burying the hatchet, ending in a flurry of electronic cacophony. ‘Some Of Them Are Old’, follows and sounds like an obituary from the Twilight Zone. “Remember me, remember me,” he coos. “Lucy be still and hide your madness in a jar,” is one of the most haunting lines on the album. If Eno is laying any grievances to rest, they sound most dearly departed. The treated guitar solo is a perverted take on traditional Hawaiian lap steel, before the orchestrated synths lift things to the stratosphere.

Finally, the title track provides the perfect coda to an album that relishes in the surreal and absurd with aplomb. One can write volumes on those influenced by this record. From Depeche Mode to Bauhaus to Gary Newman. Nor can one underestimate its influence on what was arguably David Bowie’s most groundbreaking period, the oft revered “Berlin Trilogy” of Low, Heroes and Lodger. But take the time to travel back and delve into this long player and you'll be grateful such a strange wonder exists. Here Come The Warm Jets  is truly a one of a kind record that was way ahead of its time.

 

Overall Rating (1)

5 out of 5 stars