Thursday, 2 December 2010

Help Me Somebody

…is a track from today's album, post-Talking Heads David Byrne and kbob-twiddling boffin Brian Eno's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. It's  from 1981 and it's best described as a collage of sounds - electronic instruments and a wall of samples of anything from news, speeches, prayers, folk song and a lot of bass guitars.

It is, to be honest, music made by clever people who think pop could do with a bit of brains. They've nicked technique from IRCAM, Steve Reich and the other classical composers who started sampling and looping in the 1960s (try this) and mixed it with funk (the most dated aspect of the album) and cut-up sounds. At its worst, it's two blokes telling us that they're considerably cleverer than thou. At its best, it's a hypnotic, trippy experience which pushes the boundaries of what music is and could be. If you're familiar with experimental classical music, the pop elements will thrill you - if you're a pop fan, it's the repetition, looping and sampling which makes it so special and weird. (If you're a Krautrock fan, nothing will particularly surprise you about this album).

I'm not sure whether this stuff will survive. I think it's probably inspired more musicians than fans, because it's such a showpiece rather than a pop record. Eno spawned a subculture of bespectacled, often snobbish, bearded, serious young men (always men) who can be rather too precious about music. There is, to be crude, absolutely no sex in this album, unless between robots. On the other hand, it's a comment on - and the culmination of - the industrialisation of our civilisation. Like Kraftwerk and New Order, Byrne and Eno are deliberately dehumanising music, but leaving a human-shaped whole at the heart of it (as St. Etienne do with dance music), leaving us conscious of a thrilling loss.

Does that make any sense?

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