Before and After Science
|Before and After Science|
|Studio album by Brian Eno|
|Recorded||Basing Street Studios, London; Conny's Studio, Cologne|
|Producer||Brian Eno, Rhett Davies|
|Brian Eno chronology|
|Singles from Before and After Science|
Before and After Science is the fifth studio album by British musician Brian Eno. Produced by Eno and Rhett Davies, it was originally released by Polydor Records in December 1977. Guest musicians from the United Kingdom and Germany helped with the album, including members of Roxy Music, Free, Fairport Convention, Can and Cluster. Over one hundred tracks were written with only ten making the album's final cut. The musical styles of the album range from energetic and jagged to more languid and pastoral.
The album marks Eno's last foray into rock music for the 1970s as a solo artist, with all his remaining albums of the decade showcasing more of Eno's avant-garde and ambient music, which was hinted at on the second half of Before and After Science. The album was Eno's second to chart in the United States. The song "King's Lead Hat", the title of which is an anagram for Talking Heads, was remixed and released as a single, although it didn't chart in the United Kingdom. Critical response to the album has remained positive, with several critics calling it one of Eno's best works.
Unlike Eno's previous albums, which were recorded in a very short time, Before and After Science was two years in the making. During this two-year period, Eno was busy working on his solo ambient music albums Music for Films and Discreet Music. Due to the very positive critical reception accorded his previous rock music-oriented album Another Green World, Eno was afraid of repeating himself but still wanted to release a high-quality product.
As on previous rock-based recordings, for Before and After Science Eno worked with a plethora of guest musicians. Several artists from German and British groups of the era contributed to the album, collaborating with Eno for the first time. Guitarist Fred Frith caught the attention of Brian Eno who was "excited by the timbral possibilities that [Frith had] been discovering" on his album Guitar Solos. Eno asked Frith to record with him, and this resulted in Frith playing guitar on the album. Jaki Liebezeit of the German krautrock group Can played drums for Eno on "Backwater", while German ambient music group Cluster contributed to the songwriting and instrumentation of the track "By This River". Eno had previously worked with Cluster on their album Cluster & Eno released in 1977. Additional session musicians included Dave Mattacks of British folk band Fairport Convention, who contributed drums to "Kurt's Rejoinder" and "Here He Comes", and Andy Fraser of British blues rock band Free, who played drums on "King's Lead Hat".
Eno also had several musicians who he had worked with on previous solo albums return. Percy Jones of Brand X and Phil Collins of Brand X and Genesis, who had been on Eno's two previous rock albums, played bass and drums respectively. Other contributors included Robert Fripp of King Crimson, Paul Rudolph of Hawkwind and Bill MacCormick and Phil Manzanera of Quiet Sun. Robert Wyatt went under the pseudonym of Shirley Williams and is credited on the album for "time" and "brush timbales" on "Through Hollow Lands" and "Kurt's Rejoinder" respectively. Working extensively with the musicians and his instructional cards—the Oblique Strategies—during the two years working on the album, Eno wrote over one hundred songs.
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Jim DeRogatis, author of Turn on Your Mind: Four Decades of Great Psychedelic Rock, described the overall sound of Before and After Science as "the coldest and most clinical of Eno's pop efforts", while David Ross Smith of online music database AllMusic wrote that "Despite the album's pop format, the sound is unique and strays far from the mainstream". According to David Bowie's biographer Thomas Jerome Seabrook, the album is "split between up-tempo art-rock on side one and more pastoral material on side two", while Piotr Orlov of LA Weekly categorized it as an art pop record. The album's opening tracks "No One Receiving" and "Backwater" start the album as upbeat and bouncy songs. "King's Lead Hat" is an anagram of Talking Heads, a new wave group Eno had met after a concert in England when they were touring with Ramones. Eno would later produce Talking Heads' second, third and fourth albums, including Remain in Light. The last five songs of the album have been described as having "an occasional pastoral quality" and being "pensive and atmospheric".
Opposed to Another Green World's music, which Eno described as "sky music", Eno referred to the music of Before and After Science as "ocean music". References to water in the lyrics appear in songs such as "Backwater", "Julie With..." and "By this River". Author Simon Reynolds noted themes of "boredom" and "bliss" through the album, citing "Here He Comes", about "a boy trying to vanish by floating through the sky through a different time" and "Spider and I", about a boy watching the sky and dreaming about being carried away with a ship, as examples. Eno's songwriting style was described as "a sound-over-sense approach". Influenced by poet Kurt Schwitters, Eno consciously did not make songwriting or lyrics the main focus in the music. Tom Carson of Rolling Stone noted this style, stating that the lyrics are "only complementary variables" to the music on the album. Lester Bangs commented on Eno's lyrical style on "Julie with..." stating that the lyrics themes "could be a murderer's ruminations, or simply a lovers' retreat... or Julie could be three years old". Schwitters' influence is also shown on the song "Kurt's Rejoinder", on which samples of Schwitters' poem "Ursonate" can be heard.
Before and After Science was released in December 1977 on Polydor in the United Kingdom and on Island in the United States. The first pressings of the album included four offset prints by Peter Schmidt. The back cover of the LP says "Fourteen Pictures" under the album title, referencing Eno's ten songs and Peter Schmidt's 4 prints. These prints included "The Road to the Crater", "Look at September, look at October", "The Other House" and "Four Years". The album did not chart in the United Kingdom, but was Eno's first album since Here Come the Warm Jets to chart in the United States, where it peaked at 171 on the Billboard Top LPs & Tapes chart. "King's Lead Hat" was remixed and released as a single in January 1978, featuring the b-side "R.A.F.", which is credited to "Eno & Snatch" (in the UK, not the US). This single failed to chart and has never been reissued in any form.
Before and After Science was re-issued on compact disc through E.G. Records in January 1987. In 2004, Virgin Records began reissuing Eno's albums in batches of four to five. The remastered digipak release of Before and After Science was released on 31 May 2004 in the United Kingdom and on 1 June 2004 in North America.
On a side note, the black-and-white album cover art was used by the Singapore government for an anti-heroin campaign in the late 1970s. The image was used briefly on posters and then quickly changed, probably due to legal reasons.
|Spin Alternative Record Guide||9/10|
On the album's initial release, the album received very positive reviews from rock critics. Writing for Creem, Joe Fernbacher called the Before and After Science "the perfect Eno album", while Mitchell Schneider wrote a positive review in Crawdaddy!, stating that he couldn't "remember the last time a record took such a hold of [him]—and gave [him] such an extreme case of vertigo, too". In Down Beat, Russel Shaw wrote that "[Before and After Science] is another typically awesome, stunning and numbing Brian Eno album—the record Pink Floyd could make if they set their collective mind to it." Tom Carson of Rolling Stone noted that the album "is less immediately ingratiating than either Taking Tiger Mountain or Here Come the Warm Jets. Still, the execution here is close to flawless, and despite Eno's eclecticism, the disparate styles he employs connect brilliantly." Critic Robert Christgau gave the album an A− rating, stating that he "didn't like the murkiness of the quiet, largely instrumental reflections that take over side two", but didn't find that it "diminishes side one's oblique, charming tour of the popular rhythms of the day". In 1979, Before and After Science was voted 12th best album of the year on the Village Voice's Pazz & Jop critics poll for 1978.
Modern reviews of Before and After Science have also been positive. David Ross Smith of AllMusic awarded the album the highest rating of five stars stating that it ranks alongside Here Come the Warm Jets and Another Green World "as the most essential Eno material". The music webzine Tiny Mix Tapes awarded the album their highest rating, stating that it "is not only one of the best albums in Eno's catalog, but of the 1970s as a whole". The webzine Pitchfork Media gave Before and After Science a positive but less enthusiastic review, calling the album a "neutered star in search of fuel, boasting only 'King's Lead Hat' for the pop world, and the luminous pure prog-jazz of 'Energy Fools the Magician' for the out-rock contingent". Ten days later Pitchfork placed Before and After Science at number 100 on their list of "Top 100 Albums of the 1970s", referring to it as a "lovely, charming album" and going on to state that, while "not formally groundbreaking, it's frequently overlooked when discussing great albums from an era that's romanticized as placing premiums on progression and innovation—and particularly in the context of Eno's career, which is so full of both".
The album was included in Robert Dimery's 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
|1.||"No One Receiving"||3:52|
|4.||"Energy Fools the Magician" (arranged by Percy Jones, Eno)||2:04|
|5.||"King's Lead Hat"||3:56|
|1.||"Here He Comes"||5:38|
|2.||"Julie With ..."||6:19|
|3.||"By This River" (Eno, Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Dieter Moebius)||3:03|
|4.||"Through Hollow Lands" (for Harold Budd) (arranged by Fred Frith, Eno)||3:56|
|5.||"Spider and I"||4:10|
- Brian Eno – voices, synthesizers (Minimoog, EMS Synthi AKS, Yamaha CS-80), guitar, synthesised percussion, piano, brass, vibes, metallics, bell
- Paul Rudolph – bass, rhythm guitar, harmonic bass
- Phil Collins – drums
- Percy Jones – fretless bass, analogue delay bass
- Rhett Davies – agong-gong, stick
- Jaki Liebezeit – drums
- Dave Mattacks – drums
- Shirley Williams (Robert Wyatt) – brush timbales, time
- Kurt Schwitters – voice
- Fred Frith – modified guitar, cascade guitars
- Andy Fraser – drums
- Phil Manzanera – rhythm guitar
- Robert Fripp – guitar
- Achim Roedelius – grand piano, electric piano
- Möbi Moebius – bass Fender piano
- Bill MacCormick – bass
- Brian Turrington – bass
|New Zealand Albums Chart||18|
|Swedish Albums Chart||25|
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Brian Eno is an agent from some other time and some other place who seems to know something that we don't but should...I can't remember the last time a record took such a hold of me—and gave such an extreme case of vertigo, too.)
- "Record Reviews: Before and After Science". Down Beat (45): 36. 13 July 1978.
What a wonderland of a zoo, a cross between steaming smoke, atonal mystery and hanging, frothy ditties...This is another typically awesome, stunning, numbing Brian Eno album—the record Pink Floyd could make if they set their collective mind to it.)
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