With the cheerful absurdity of Here Come The Warm Jets and the harrowing, avant-glam pop of Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) (both 1974), the fretless fusion of 1975’s Another Green World and the searing new wave of 1977’s Before And After Science, Brian Eno (credited simply as Eno on the first three albums) created an immediate identity for his vocal, solo oeuvre away from Roxy Music and apart from his then-burgeoning interests in discrete, ambient music. Now, done up as half-speed masters at 45 RPM spread across two vinyl records (each, with gatefold sleeves), the early, restless Eno—before and beyond his role as stately experimental artist, collaborator, producer and thinker—gets a clearer-than-crystal overdue review.
What can be learned from these rich remasters? That, with the exception of the gloriously understated Another Green World’s ethereal, bass-heavy minimalism (thanks to Percy Jones), Eno’s high end is deeply piercing, whether it’s the epileptic “King’s Lead Hat” (Before And After Science), the swooning “Fat Lady Of Limbourg” (Tiger Mountain) or the corny “Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch” (Warm Jets) and “Burning Airlines Give You So Much More” (Tiger Mountain). That refrigerator-magnet prose started in 1974. That doo-wop and barbershop chorales are way more inspirational to Eno than initially realized. That I miss the sinister, panicked guitar sounds of Robert Fripp (provoked and processed by Eno) now more than ever. That the textural electronic experimentation of Before And After Science is truly the third album in the Berlin Trilogy recorded by Eno and David Bowie at the same time.
Taken as a whole, Eno’s first four non-ambient solo albums represent a ferociousness in experimental pop the likes of which we won’t hear again soon.