Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Nothing Quite Like...Here Come The Warm Jets

Jim Powers recently released his most under-appreciated albums of the '70s, and while I wholehearted agree with his selections, I would be remiss if I did not use the opportunity to discuss what I believe to be not only one of the most under-appreciated albums of the '70s, but one of the most under-appreciated albums, ever: Brian Eno’s Here Come The Warm Jets (hereinafter HCTWJ). Initially, I was prepared to discuss this over-looked-album-almost-to-the-point-of-travesty in the comments section under Jim's article, but before posting, I thought to myself, "This is just indicative of this album's existence as an afterthought in Eno's oeuvre; this album deserves a full post with a .jpeg of the album cover and large fonts, the bloggy works, and should not just be relegated to the comments section." (Not to diminish the comments section, please continue to post your thoughts, and yes, the word "oeuvre" does arise in my internal dialogue.)

Outside its inclusion in Pitchfork's Top 25 of the '70s, this album simply does not get the love it deserves. Critics, for the most part, fail to give HCTWJ the singular praise it deserves, rather grouping the album with the rest of Eno's brilliant '70s output, to include Before & After Science, Taking Tiger Mountain (by Strategy) (the best way to take Tiger Mountain, if you ask me), Ambient 1, and Another Green World (which tends to garner the most individual praise).

Not to detract from any of these works, as each deserves independent appreciation, but Here Come The Warm Jets...Here Come The Warm Jets...Here Come The Judge...Here Come The Warm Jets. Another Album with a capital 'A', Here Come The Warm Jets might just be the best rock album to make prodigious use of the synthesizer, might just be the best glam rock album, might just be the best album of the 1970s, might just be the best classic rock album, might just be…one of the best albums…ever.

HCTWJ manages to be both deceptively conventional and profoundly odd. On one hand, a casual listener could find this album consistent with the output of many '70s acts, largely melodic pop-rock songs with a good bit of guitar and synthesizer wankery thrown in the mix. However, close or repeated listenings erase the initial impressions of jazzy rock jamming and reveal the deliberate composition underneath. Riffs are placed, not merely played, and background atmospherics, bells, and whistles are exposed as absolute compositional necessities that you can only realize in hindsight.

Yet each of these tracks can stand on its own as a little pop nugget. As a rule, I love any eight-minute or shorter song in which the lyrics come in somewhere after the two-minute mark. "On Some Faraway Beach" is no exception, and is likely the reason for the rule. After the beautiful first three minutes of the song, I'm torn between wanting to hit the mark (GNR "Patience"-style) singing the lines "Given the chance/I'd die like a baby/On some faraway beach/When the season's over", or breaking down in tears. This truly unforced epic should be in heavy rotation on your hometown's ubiquitous classic rock station. A thinking man's "Turn the Page" (though, are fans of "Turn the Page" really looking for a "thinking man's" anything?).

"Cindy Tells Me" should have the highest play-count on any lover of indie pop's iPod. Then there's "Dead Finks Don't Talk." Utterly bizarre, undeniably awesome. "Dead Finks" features spoken word, choral chanting, and a pre-Debbie Harry white rap interlude. Yet the most genius choice of the song (and maybe the album…and… I'll begrudgingly refrain from further hyperbole) is the inclusion of the odd "oh no"s in the ostensible chorus. Yet this song is objectively outstanding and not in a novelty sense. Jeff Lynne is rolling around in his grave right now wishing he wrote this song.

HCTWJ seamlessly ends with "Some Of Them Are Old" segueing into the complementary closing title track, which I'd take over the coda of "Layla" any day. The perfect way to end this masterpiece, a virtual aural victory lap that seems to hearken back to the joys and successes of the previous thirty-eight minutes.

I often threaten to sit down and write out my top ten favorite, or what I believe to be the best albums of all time. I never have, but I imagine my picks would reflect the conventional tastes of my fellow peers who like to read and write about music on the internet, with your OK Computer, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, David Bowie, Abbey Road, Lonesome Crowded West, late '70s, early '80s punk and post punk, Secret Samadhi, etc. And somewhere on that short list would be this album. But I do not want this to be some kind of mark of uniqueness, an obligatory "break from the pack" pick. I want this to be a consistent, obvious, and boring choice. At the very least, I want to have one conversation with a music dork/geek/snob who is with me on this issue. So if you have not given this album its due attention, I urge you to do so.

Then check out Jim Powers's suggestions, they're nice.

--Travis Newman


Brian said...

Secret Samadhi does not get any love. Neither does that singer guy's braided rat-tail/bald head thing.

I've never listened to this album, even though I love Eno. I always gravitate to Science, Another Green World, and his Roxy Music albums. Definitely give Warm Jets a shot now, though.

Alex said...

I was under the impression Jeff Lynne was still alive.

Travis said...

I like to declare Jeff Lynne dead, from time to time, just to see if anyone takes notice.

Jim P. said...

Travis, I agree with all of that, except maybe that Jeff Lynne is rolling over in his bed instead of his grave. I don't listen to HCTWJ too much, but I think it's pretty awesome.

Also, just a little point, my list isn't of the most overlooked albums of the '70s, it's just a list of 4 albums that I think are overlooked.

Brian said...

More like Jeff Lynne is rolling over in a huge pile of money after licensing his songs to Honda.

Travis said...

In all fairness to Jeff Lynne, despite my joke to the contrary, I believe he will be the last surviving Willbury.

Yeah, Tom Petty, I said it. Whatcha gonna do about it? I hope eat a sandwich.


Sorry Jim, I understand the scope of your list. I made a reference to that point in my original draft, but I guess I edited it out.

eXTReMe Tracker