It’s time to shine the Vinyl Spotlight! Every now and then on Paloozapalooza, I like to focus on a random LP from my collection. This week, we have:
Brian Eno – Here Come the Warm Jets (1974)
I listened to Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life the other day and randomly started thinking about how it’s one of my top 10 or so albums of all time, from any genre. Then, yesterday, I put on Joni Mitchell’s Blue while I was working and had the exact same thought. This put me in a bit of a trance where I just kept trying to think of other albums that would fall in that category. There’s some Dylan in there, of course, and probably a Neil Young record or two.
There’s another album that is a part of that conversation: Brian Eno’s Here Come the Warm Jets.
Here Come the Warm Jets is Eno’s solo debut, released two years after he left Roxy Music, and it definitely has a bit of that early Roxy vibe. It’s extravagant, eccentric and, when it wants to be, about as glam as early glam ever got. It’s more menacing, though; more raw. “It’ll melt your face off” is one of those generic music terms people throw around way too often, but there are moments on Here Come the Warm Jets where you genuinely feel as if your face might just be starting to melt.
Opener “Needles in the Camel’s Eyes,” with its galloping drums and sloppy, reckless guitar work, is just one example; it sounds as if the Ramones had to write a song on the spot in the middle of a drug-fueled fever dream. And the very next tune, “The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch,” sounds like an even mix of Devo and Television, though the former was still fresh on the scene and the latter wouldn’t drop Marquee Moon for another three years.
And then, of course, there’s “Baby’s on Fire,” which just happens to feature an all-time classic guitar solo from King Crimson’s Robert Fripp. Fripp’s blistering tone is part of the appeal, but I also love how it just appears out of nowhere. Eno’s singing to you about how there’s this baby on fire and then, boom, just like that, Fripp is making you forget your name and lose all control of your motor functions. It’s absolutely unreal.
The more atmospheric, melancholy side of Eno’s music turns up on Here Come the Warm Jets as well, and it makes for some of the record’s strongest moments. There’s “On Some Faraway Beach,” for instance, which puts a simple, looping piano line out in front and then surrounds it with layer after layer of backing vocals, synthesizers and drums. It’s the kind of track that sucks you in and takes you to another place; you see space, you see the stars, you see other worlds. (And, sure, because of its name, you might see a beach as well.)
More than two minutes into “On Some Faraway Beach,” just when you think you have a firm grasp of what’s happening, Eno begins to sing, and a song that was already fantastic goes on to reach new heights.
Here Comes the Warm Jets ends with two other slow, atmospheric songs: the haunting, beautiful “Some of Them Are Old” and the title track, which again finds Eno taking a fairly straightforward loop and then building all kinds of other instruments and sounds on top of it.
Overall, I just adore this album from start to finish. Eno has been a part of a lot of amazing music over the years, but Here Comes the Warm Jets might just be my favorite thing he’s ever done.