14 February 2011

Back To Back: Eno & St. Vincent

Seems as though the reported on-going collaboration (presumably four songs in at the studio) between David Byrne and Annie Clark aka St. Vincent has got Annie listening to some of David's old pals.

Back in 1981, The Night Owl's college roommate came home with a new album from the neighborhood independent record store, indicating that he had bought it because of a quick listen on the store's turntable. (Maybe Nick Hornby happened to be there as well, using this incident as a basis for his famous vignette in High Fidelity.) Well, I couldn't just ignore the guy, given he had unearthed Pete Townshend & Ronnie Lane's Rough Mix only a month earlier. So I grabbed the LP cover from him while he placed 33 1/3 on the record player and dropped the stylus on the vinyl.

I scanned the multicolored photo on the front and back. Brian Eno. Yeah, the guy from Roxy Music who quit before they really made their mark. The English studio wizard who had worked with Bowie. Here Come The Warm Jets. Oh yeah, that record he put out before the ambient music thing pulled him away from rock.

The song titles didn't exactly invite you in as a listener: "The Paw-Paw Negro Blowtorch"; "Baby's On Fire"; and "Dead Finks Don't Talk" among the ten tracks.

But damned if I didn't sit next to the Advent speakers for the next 40 minutes totally taken in by the melodies and production. Later research revealed original rave reviews from Lester Bangs ("Incredible") and Robert Christgau ("Grade 'A' . . . The idea of this record -- top of the pops from quasi-Dadaist British synth wizard -- may put you off, but the actuality is quite engaging in a Velvet Underground kind of way"). I've been a true disciple of the album ever since, and with recent reissues, Here Come The Warm Jets still resonates with new generations.

And so it is with St. Vincent, who now gives us a wonderful cover of "Some of Them Are Old." We invite you to compare, contrast and enjoy both her version and the original.

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