One of the more intriguing developments on today’s English rock scene has been the emergence of a cult of marginal musicians bent on doing “weird” things to the traditional pop song format. Be it in the name of being “trendy” (Elton John) or just for the sake of seeming mysterious (Roxy Music), these folks have taken so many liberties with a hackneyed old genre that it frequently ends up sounding quite unlike the early Beatles records which were its foremost representation.
Brian Eno, formerly of Roxy Music, is another one who writes weird songs but their weirdness is more silly than puzzling. Lacking any mentionable instrumental proficiency, he claims he “treats” other musicians’ instruments — though the end product of his efforts would have to be classed as indiscernible.
His record is annoying because it doesn’t do anything. The songs aren’t strong enough individually or collectively to merit more than a passing listen. Save for some incendiary guitar work by Robert Fripp during “Baby’s On Fire,” the instrumentation is pretty tepid. In fact the whole album may be described as tepid, and the listener must kick himself for blowing five bucks on baloney.
Historians might want to take note of the fact that “Needles in the Camel’s Eye” has a heavy Del Shannon influence; that “Some of Them Are Old” is constructed around harmonies highly reminiscent of the Four Freshmen; that the first three songs on side B quote extensively from the Beatles’ Abbey Road. Others will hopefully join with this writer in taking exception to this insane divergence of styles and wish that the next time Eno makes an album, he will attempt to structure his work rather than throw together the first ten things that come to mind.