Monday, June 06, 2011

77. Brian Eno, "Third Uncle" (1974)

(listen)

For the most part I think I like Brian Eno best as a collaborator, pushing the projects of the people he works with to surprising heights, helping each in turn find the personal Eno deep within, whether that's Roxy Music, David Bowie, David Byrne, the Walkabouts, or whoever. In his solo ventures, however, I find myself opting, track by track, for the rockers more than the soundscapes—even if one of my favorite albums by him, Another Green World, is all soundscape. One of the most delightful paradoxes about Eno is that you can never entirely make up your mind about anything. There is always a new wrinkle for everything. What that meant for this list, forced to pick just one song, was a choice between "King's Lead Hat" and this, both of which amp up the tempo and push electric guitars out front. It was not an easy choice but I settled on "Third Uncle" as much as anything because the album from which it comes, Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), is so thoroughly charming and deserving of as wide an audience as possible. "Third Uncle" is a basic frontal assault, Eno style, with a rubbery bass catalyzing a convulsive choked-off electric guitar thrash and tom-heavy drumming, and very quickly propelling the dynamics directly into your face. Eventually the gnomic Eno enters the fray with a rhyming, mumbling stream-of-consciousness chant that feels nearly perfunctory. That ends on "then there was you," which appears to signal the point where Phil Manzanera can start pealing off dragways of a lyrical solo that is en toto all rawk all right. In fact, the whole thing is a kind of study in electric guitar, and in its way feels, by the manner in which it proceeds, almost like something by Erik Satie.

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