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or anyplace with more trees and less concrete

My Life In The Hype Of Eggheads

by admin - February 16th, 2006.
Filed under: brian eno, music.

new Bush Of Ghosts album artAlong with Talking Heads’ Remain In Light and Jon Hassell’s Fourth World Vol. 1: Possible Musics, David Byrne and Brian Eno’s My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts is an album that helped redefine artrock in the early 80s. These releases helped bring international musics to the relative mainstream and simultaneously bury twiddly late-70s progressive rock bombast (full disclosure: I still listen to a lot of the latter, at high volume…especially when it’s late at the office and no one else is around).
A justifiably big deal is being made of the Nonesuch label’s March 28th reissue of Bush Of Ghosts (new album art shown at left). Those who know me well know me as nothing if not a Brian Eno apologist, so I’m looking forward to the project– especially the seven bonus tracks and MPEG video of “Mea Culpa.”
Yes, Byrne and Eno were and still are a couple of rock’s pre-eminent eggheads. Bush Of Ghosts is a classic in most senses of the word, and it’s aged well (unlike a lot of Eno and Byrne’s subsequent work. Sorry, I just had to get that in). The album works on a gut level: you can dance to it, and the found middle-eastern vocals and TV evangelist rants give the album a perverse neo-gospel feel. You can overintellectualize the irony of the latter, too, if that’s the sort of thing that blows your dress up.
Much of the Bush pre/re-release hype seems based around David Byrne’s gee-whiz-we-were-so-ahead-of-our-time quotes, while few of the journalists involved mention an album that was issued over two years before Bush: Holger Czukay‘s 1979 release, Movies.
Movies is absolutely amazing. The melodies are insidiously stellar, the rhythms (courtesy Can’s Jaki Liebezeit) metronome-perfect, and every song is woven with found sounds from Czukay’s shortwave radio. “Persian Love” is possibly among the most gorgeous tunes ever composed, and represents Czukay’s career high point (although the sidelong “Ode To Perfume” from 1982′s On The Way To The Peak Of Normal is a close second). Czukay speeds up the guitar, giving it an African highlife pitch, and middle Eastern vocalists (guesting courtesy the shortwave) trade solos as the beat shuffles and canters.
Everpresent, too, are Holger’s eccentric basslines, familiar to any Can fan. Where Bush seems to be suffering a disco hangover during some of its more pedestrian grooves, Movies soars with instrumental backing best described as indefinable. “Czukay-like” might be the only appropriate simile. Movies is one of those early 80s Eurock curiosities that will always date well.
Completionists and comparison-ists will also need to track down Canaxis. Czukay is joined by co-producer Rolf Dammers on this 1968 (!) LP. There are some very perceptive reviews of the album on Amazon. It’s arguably one of the first LPs to meld field recordings of vocalists with studio instrumentation.
Listening to Canaxis, Movies and On the Way To The Peak Of Normal just wants to make me laugh at David Byrne. More than usual, I mean. “Gee, we didn’t even have samplers back then.” Uh huh. What next? “Cardboard boxes? I would have KILLED to live in a cardboard box! When I was studying Bauhuas Theory at the Rhode Island School of Design, I had to sleep in Wendy’s dumpsters and eat gravel!”

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