Brian Eno

Words and Music from Wrong Way Up

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Brian Eno's 1990 telephone interview promoting Wrong Way Up (his collaboration with John Cale) is possibly the most sought after in the Words and Music series, surfacing occasionally at record collectors shows. Eno's voice moves in and out of the mix, at times talking over the songs as they play, at other moments bridging them by speaking between the tracks. The selected six cuts are the catchiest pop tunes from Wrong Way Up, plus the atmospheric "The River." Eno and Cale, confronting creative differences, succeed in composing distinct, mood-evoking music that's very accessible to the masses, unlike much of their individual solo projects.

Words and Music includes "Been There Done That," the most straightforward pop piece from Wrong Way Up. It was the only song from the CD that received adequate airplay; it's also the least interesting song on the album. On the other end of the spectrum, "The River," with strong Eno vocals, is a beautiful composition that harks back to the soothing, dreamlike qualities of Before and After Science.

Eno spends most of the Words and Music interview talking about lyrics, fitting words together, and songwriting ("I begin a song with a vocal rhythm, then just start singing"). He expresses his fondness for singing and for his voice. According to Eno, he has really nothing to say. His lyrics have the feeling of meaning, but they're not exact. He prefers this sense of mystery, and prefers to explore, through his lyrics, subjects and concepts that he doesn't understand. In addition, Eno expresses his distaste for over-polished production ("it's schlocky") and his appreciation for rough edges and mistakes in final mixes.

Eno's and Cale's voices are appealing and work well together. On Words and Music, Eno explains that his desire to write songs with Cale stemmed from "The Soul of Carmen Miranda," their collaboration from Cale's 1989 Words for the Dying, which Eno produced. Eno also describes the challenge of working with Cale ("He has a short attention span"), describing him as a welder while likening himself to a blacksmith: (paraphrasing) "John likes to press a button and it's done; I like to hammer away at things, molding them into shape." The two have different attitudes and approaches to making music; it's the collision of these disparities that makes for a unique, attractive pop album.

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