Music: The divisive someday world of Eno-Hyde
Free Press Music Columnist
You could forgive someone who has for more than 40 years forged a legendary career as a performer, producer and theorist for resting on his laurels at the age of 66. But one can only assume Brian Eno’s brow is so incandescent with ideas that honorary wreaths just melt away.
The man hasn’t stopped being a gigantic musical influence and tastemaker since he started messing with primitive analog synthesizers in 1971 as a founding member of Roxy Music. He’s been present at many of the most significant watershed moments in musical history. He produced debut albums by Devo and Ultravox, shepherded the Talking Heads into the musical pantheon and guided bands like U2 and Coldplay into superstardom. He named and helped invent the genre of ambient music. He has composed scores for major Hollywood films and even appeared as an actor on sitcoms.
The man can’t sit still.
Now, he has returned to the world of pop music with a new album created in conjunction with singer/guitarist Karl Hyde of the celebrated British electronica duo, Underworld. “Someday World” has only been out for about a month, and already it’s proven to be one of the most divisive albums of 2014. Most of the reviews have been quite positive (the album scores 62 on Metacritic, which means it has received “generally positive” write-ups). But sampling some of the critical response reveals an album that apparently people either love or hate. Exclaim calls it “a disappointingly pedestrian affair,” but Uncut complains it’s “too busy with ideas for its own good.” Meanwhile, Mojo, Q and the Independent swoon over the record’s “bright, surging melodies” and “liquid pools of guitar.”
Count Craven in the latter camp. The album strikes these ears as a sweet pop gem from a pair of artists not always known for either sweetness or pop. “Someday World” conjures memories of several of Eno’s past collaborations, although the antecedent it most recalls is “Wrong Way Up,” the shimmering (and fairly traditional) album Eno created with John Cale 24 years ago. Like that underrated album, “Someday World” builds on a fairly traditional rock foundation. But as he did with David Byrne on 1981’s “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts,” Eno augments Hyde’s stream-of-consciousness lyrics and smooth guitar riffs with layers of African polyrhythms. And the new release’s brass licks evoke some of the funk goodness of Eno’s last Talking Heads collaboration, “Remain in Light.”
Apparently, the partnership between Eno and Hyde was creatively successful enough to ensure another album from the duo, fast on the heels of “Someday World.” They announced over the weekend that they’ll be issuing another album in June, to be called “High Life.” If it’s as good as “Someday World,” Craven will be downloading it post-haste. Eno-Hyde may have divided the critical establishment, but they’ve brought together precisely the elements of experimentation, rhythm and harmony to make Craven want to return to their someday world again and again.
Craven Lovelace is the producer of the Notes Blog & Podcast at http://cravenlovelace.com/notesblog. He also writes about popular culture at the Cravenomena blog: http://cravenlovelace.com/cravenblog. You may find him on Facebook as well.
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