By Ryan Smith
Glutton as I am for anything involving the great Brian Eno (a personal idol of mine), it didn’t take much to convince me to pick up his latest album, a collaboration with Karl Hyde of the British electronica group Underworld. Not quite sure what to expect, but knowing it would be incredible, I popped the disc in the player (yeah, I’m old school) and took a deep breath.
The greatest thing about Someday World for me is just how much it resembles Eno’s work on his early art-pop records. While nothing quite compares to the work Robert Fripp did on those early efforts, there is a lot here to please fans of Another Green World and Before and After Science. It took me a bit to get into the vocals on the first track, “The Satellites,” but the musical tapestry weaved beneath is incredible. The song is laced with subtle hooks, as is the whole album, for that matter. The album continues with “Daddy’s Car,” a very quirky and hooky little ditty with a pleasing melody and a Syd Barrett-style coda. “A Man Wakes Up” is a funky, minimalist affair with a distinct Talking Heads/Beat-era King Crimson feel.
The spirit of Eno’s early work kicks in full-force with “Witness,” my favourite tune on the album. This song is a solid number, through and through. Right from the beginning it bears an uncanny resemblance to Another Green World‘s bloody incredible “St. Elmo’s Fire.” Eno and Hyde sing together incredibly, soaring over the downright magical musical landscape, before the song shifts into a bridge section of oddly mesmerising noise and a spoken word vocal that nods to Eno’s 2011 record Drums Between the Bells. The singing picks up once more to end the song with a triumphant return to its lyrical beginning. I love these lyrics! For instance, the brilliance of having a nearly infinite ‘again and again and again’ after the words ‘I miss you’ underscores a simple yet powerful passion. Ugh! I bloody love everything about this song!
From here on in, the album is just stellar. The brooding and urgent atmosphere of “Strip It Down” simply conquers, and “Mother of a Dog” reminds me strongly of the kind of work Adrian Belew did on his Side Two album back in 2005. It has an apocalyptic despair feel creeping about beneath an almost soothing surface, and the arrangement blossoms marvelously during the song’s final third, just before the coda, which is exceptional in its own right. A very beautiful nod to Eno’s ambient work.
Before the album ends, we hear a couple more great and more typical Eno tunes with “Who Rings the Bell” and “When I Built This World.” The writing here is a testament to the man’s continuing brilliance. Not only can Brian Eno write intricate, yet somehow simple, soundscapes that boggle the freakin’ mind, but he also knows just how to write a damn good song! The subtle touches in “Who Rings” make it quite a breathtaking piece of work, if it doesn’t seem apparent right away. “When I Built This World” is a dark, electronic monstrosity that sounds like something from Crimson’s bold, electronics-laced 2003 album The Power To Believe.
In the end, Someday World more than comes through for Brian Eno fans of all kinds. I truly believe every Eno fan will find something here, especially those like me who have a soft spot for his art-pop and Roxy Music records. Karl Hyde proves himself to be a more than worthy collaborator, as do the other special guests (among them are Andy Mackay, who Eno played with in Roxy Music, and Will Champion of Coldplay, who he has produced a few times now). I’m sold on Hyde as a writer after this and will definitely be checking out his other work. As Eno is also a formidable producer, you can bet that the album’s values in that field are stacked as well. This time he is accompanied by a co-producer, Fred Gibson, who also plays quite an assortment of instruments on the record.
There’s more great news for fans of this record, for Eno and Hyde are releasing yet another record, High Life, on June 30th of this year! It will be interesting to see where the two take their newly forged sound on their next outing, and you’d better believe Replicant Ears will be there to report!
RYAN SMITH spends a great deal of his time under troll bridges shaking his fist and hollering obscenities at the mainstream, but occasionally finds himself on the side of a pop act that the underground has disowned. A schizoid fan for the 21st century? Although he has a diverse musical taste that runs the gamut from black metal to country to most forms of jazz, Ryan’s first love will always be progressive music.