Sunday, July 23, 2006

When did I lose interest in Brian Eno?

I've recently found myself getting irritated when I hear of something that Brian Eno's been up to. This is ridiculous, since he's one of my heros. When nobody else was buying his records or knew who he was, he seemed the most interesting artist in the world. I remember a Paul Morley show where he talked of the history of music as if Eno had been involved in every worthwhile bit of it, and in a way he had. Yet, at some point - probably after his 3rd or 4th U2 collaboration - he became the ubiquitous cultural commentator that he is today. And more than that, it seems if anyone wants to add a bit of artiness to a project he gets called in to add his bit. He curated meltdown, he had that exhibition of storage spaces in London, he's produced the new Paul Simon album (Paul bloody Simon!), and he's added humanitarian work - through War child and opposition to the Iraq war - to the long cv. Even now he casts a long shadow - I was thinking of his "long now" project at the Futuresonic event mentioned earlier. I think the problem is that in the past Eno was almost ridiculously interesting. Most of the projects were ones he generated himself that seemed to exist outside of the mainstream - and appeared totally perplexing to it. Yet now its as if he's called in to add a bit of Eno to anything that might warrant it. I was excited - still - to hear he'd written a soundtrack to a podcast of Michael Faber's "Fahrenheit Twins" story, but then, somehow I lost interest. Faber's a bit of an acquired taste, full of inventiveness, but you'll either love or hate his prose style. It strikes me, listening to it, that its an interesting idea, a mutual appreciation between writer and musician, but that I'm not sure there's much more to say on it. It works well - in the Guardian extract - and is perhaps a step beyond the usual audiobook. The story is quite a traditional narrative - atmospheric and descriptive - and in that sense the music can only be a backdrop, rather than integral. Reading about how it was put together, this is perhaps no surprise, but perhaps I'd expected more. I guess I want the Eno of past surprises. Also, it's clearly a commercial venture - the story was cropped to fit on a CD (and one has to admire any musician able to come up with a 70 minute piece as a backdrop of music). But its made me think (as Eno always does.) The audiobook podcast is something that is both nascent, but accessible. So perhaps I'm not irritated by Eno as much as remembering that one of Eno's aims, as I saw it, was to encourage others to work in these areas. That he's still the one being asked, is probably the problem. Part of the project, I think, was that people like me should lose interest in Brian Eno.

(And for the record: 5 great Eno moments -: "Baby's on Fire" live - from 1st June 1974 CD, "The True Wheel" from Taking Tiger Mountain (by Strategy) - the band A Certain Ratio took their name from this song, "I Zimbra" - Talking Head's finest ethnofunk moment, "Miss Sarajevo" - from the Passengers project with U2, Warszawa - with Bowie from "Low".)

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