Eno's voice has absolutely nothing in common with the vocal tracks on Here Come The Warm Jets, his forthcoming L.P. His pronunciation is that of a soft-spoken gentleman. His singing is not unlike the shriek of a hare that's just caught an air gun pellet up the ass.
— Chrissie Hynde New Musical Express February 02: Pages 24 and 29 (1974)
Here Come the Warm Jets sounds like a Roxy Music album out of a parallel universe—one where a murderous and insane Brian Eno garroted Bryan Ferry after For Your Pleasure and assumed Ferry's voice to keep fans from suspecting anything.
In 1974, in our universe, Brian Eno was a stylish androgyne internationally renowned for his sexual prowess, fresh out of Roxy Music because he was in danger of stealing the band's spotlight from Bryan Ferry, probably strung out on drugs, and on the way to a collapsed lung and the first of two long stays in the hospital. In short, he was the epitome of glam rock, as much an inspiration for Velvet Goldmine's Brian Slade as was David Bowie. (The incidentally fantastic 1998 movie featured three Eno songs from this album: "Needles in the Camel's Eye," "Baby's on Fire," and "Dead Finks don't Talk.")
His first solo album, Here Come the Warm Jets, is a delightfully sadistic slice of debauched rock and roll that subverts every cliche in the book and creates half a dozen new ones. The listener's first impression of the album, its title, sets the scene with its delightful innuendo: "The title Warm Jets came from the guitar sound on the track of that name, which I described on the track sheet as 'warm jet guitar', because it sounded like a tuned jet. Then I had the pack of playing cards with the picture of the woman in there, and they sort of connected. That was one of the things that was going on at the time: this idea that music was still tied to some idea of revolution, and that one of the revolutions was a sexual revolution. I wasn't making a big political point, I just liked having fun with those things. Most people didn't realise for a long time — it was rather deeply concealed!" (Brian Eno, interviewed by Andy Gill in Mojo, June 1998)
Oh, right, the cards. Brian Eno is a collector of pornographic playing cards, and the cover of Here Come the Warm Jets features the eight of spades: a young woman getting her bottom smacked by a dapper gentleman in a top hat. Another wonderfully perverse first impression.
For this album Eno continues in his Roxy Music role, treating other instruments with experimental studio effects and (as the liner notes say) "occasionally" playing the keyboard and synthesizer. In his later albums he would branch out, playing more and more instruments on each album, eventually creating everything on his own.
Here Come the Warm Jets opens with the ecstatic "idiot energy" of Needles in the Camel's Eye. A jangling wall of guitar noise and Eno's singular wail batter your eardrums into exhausted, smiling submission. A synth organ cuts through the mix, echoing Eno's wail. This song is played in the opening credits of the 1998 glam mock-retrospective Velvet Goldmine, as a group of teens runs through the London streets to a Maxwell Demon concert. A great opening for the movie and for the album.
On the oddly-titled song The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch, Eno vocally channels Bryan Ferry. The Eno fansite Enoweb quotes: "Eno explains that this song was inspired by the case of A.W. Underwood of Paw Paw, Michigan, who could set things on fire merely by breathing on them. 'The song celebrates the possibility of a love affair with the man', says Eno." (More Dark Than Shark) Eno's usually meaningless lyrics describe this fantasy situation quite aptly: "He'll set the sheets on fire — mmm, quite a burning lover..." Watch for the outerspace synth-keyboard solo on this one!
The infamous Baby's on Fire opens with a sinister bass thump and Eno's callous vocals. The centerpiece of the song is a truly amazing guitar solo by Robert Fripp, perhaps the most searingly brilliant ever played. This track was the album's biggest hit and is a standout track.
Eno's musical career reportedly began when, as a young child, he heard the doo-wop and rock and roll broadcast by a U.S. Airforce Base. He had never heard such sounds, and assumed that they must have come from Mars. Cindy tells me is such music—familliar, but filtered through an otherworldly intelligence. This is another song reminiscent of Roxy Music's twisted soul music.
Driving me backwards opens with a tortured moan, and Eno's vocals soar into stratospheres of anguish and repressed desire. Hand claps, dueling radioactive guitars and a constantly menacing piano rhythm drive Eno to the song's scat-sung conclusion amidst a swelling bubble of sonic lava.
On Some Faraway Beach is a more conventional ballad that incorporates comparably tranquil piano, and wind melodies, hinting at the song "Here He Comes" from Before and After Science. Even this song gradually builds layer upon layer until it becomes almost disorientingly textured. Eno's vocals come in late in the song with the unusually sincere and emotional refrain "Given the chance / I'll die like a baby."
This comparative calm blasts into Blank Frank, a stripped-down, Stooges-esque proto-punk assault. Honking noises that sound like sax or harmonica combine and lead to a machinegun blast of reverbing guitar and what sounds like a sampled and sped-up Irish jig. Eno's vocals echo the rapid fire guitar in the song's climax. Robert Fripp again demonstrates his virtuosity. A surprise favorite.
Dead Finks don't Talk opens with a martial drum cadence, beautiful piano, and sadly spoken vocals: "Oh cheeky cheeky / Oh naughty sneaky / You're so perceptive / And I wonder how you knew." It sounds like the world's most painful breakup song, with Eno singing sarcastically "Oh, you headless chicken / Can those poor teeth take so much kicking?" And then Eno seems to obviously mock Bryan Ferry's vocal style. Is this song about Eno's departure from Roxy Music? From Enoweb: "Dead Finks is not about Bryan Ferry. After all the music was recorded and the words written, Chris Thomas (my producer and Roxy’s as well) said, 'you’ll get me shot for that track. It’s obviously about Bryan.' So I listened back to it and it obviously was. It was certainly something I hadn’t realised. Essentially all these songs have no meaning that I invested in them. Meanings can be generated within their own frame-work. It may be a very esoteric thing to talk about but I don’t think it’s entirely out of the question." (Brian Eno, 1973) This song was used as the soundtrack of Brian Slade and Kurt Wilde's breakup in the film Velvet Goldmine.
Some of them are Old seems like a reply to the previous song's heartbreak, a funeral hymnal. "Remember me, remember me," chants Eno, sounding like he is singing in a church choir. A tribal bongo drum beat and wavering slide guitar form a psychedelically disorienting swirl. "Remember me, remember me."
Now Here Come the Warm Jets! The "warm jet guitar" sound that initially inspired the album's title fades in and is joined by drums, initially out of sync. The drums gradually join the guitar and lend the song more coherence.1 Eno's vocals are notoriously inaudible and their lyrical content is subject to fierce debate. A nice closer, with its slow rising action and the gentle massage of the guitar.
Everything you'd rather not have known about Brian Eno, From New Musical Express, February 2, 1974: http://music.hyperreal.org/artists/brian_eno/interviews/nmetxt.html
All Music Guide: http://www.allmusic.com
1 - The author thinks that this song sounds like a forerunner of the lo-fi fuzz of modern bands like The Microphones.