If I’m home and listening to music these days, it’s generally iTunes on my computer on random. After about an hour or so, there’ll come a point where I hear a song and go damn, I have to listen to the rest of that record. Today, that happened when I started singing along with Needles in the Camel’s Eye from Eno’s Here Come The Warm Jets. So now Driving Me Backwards is playing and I’m thinking about the album as a whole. I came to it late, Eno was one of those people that I found out I was supposed to like once I started hanging with punk friends in the late seventies, even though there was a little mention of him around the “progressive” circles I moved in before that. But it was always pretty peripheral. I probably didn’t pay real attention to the record until late in college. Listening to it today, you can hear tons of little production tricks that Eno has continued to pull from not only for his own subsequent records but for his production stints with every one else: collisions of acoustic and electronic instuments. The use of very different types of sonic placement for two different instruments in the same song, a preference for texture over melody. There’s a guitar bit from the end of Blank Frank that is almost the same as the beginning of U2’s The Fly.
Eno has been pretty adamant in saying that these songs aren’t about anything, evidently the lyrics were written as a series of nonsense syllables first and then turned into words. But the words you pull out of a batch of nonsense syllables often end up having a lot to say about who you are, and the songs on HCTWJ seem to revolve around horror, failure, death in life, and a kind of frowsy kinkiness. It’s all cluttered and worn , a bit like the desk top still lifes on the front and back album covers. And yet by the end, the grinding, pounding guitars of Needles in the Camel’s Eye have turned into the operatic, soaring chords of the title track.