Termite of Temptation: Brian Eno’s Best

By the early ’90s, Brian Eno’s cachet was at its apex. I caught up to him the year he did more than produce U2’s best album, Zooropa: I discovered Low, “Heroes,” and Lodger, found a Nice Price cassette version of Another Green World, and bought James’ Laid. Then Roxy Music beckoned. Eno was right, as usual: Roxy recorded its best music upon his departure. Through four wonderful vocal albums—unmatched in their admixture of formal invention and gonzo humor—and a beguiling series of collaborations with Robert Fripp, Cluster, Harold Budd, John Cale, and others, Eno has approached rock with a dilettante’s amateurish glee and a sophisticate’s subtlety, bound only by the limits of his curiosity.

So vast as to seem forbidding, his catalog is full of unexpected diversions, uneven by definition. I rank his 1990 Cale collaboration Wrong Way Up with Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) and Before and After Science but find the Jon Hassell co-recording Fourth World, Volume 1: Possible Musics a vaporous bore, while Discreet Music and Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks are never far away from my stereo, notably around bedtime.

I’m happy with my list: a compulsive miscellany. The songs include the collaborations mentioned above, plus a couple excellent ones from David Bowie’s Outside and a standout from his second Karl Hyde project. The differences between “songs” and “collaborations” is elastic though.

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