on June 15, 2004
2 cents on the music: very good, very wonderful, very Eno. Unabashed pop (Backwater, Here He Comes) mixes with artier WTFs (Kurt's Rejoinder), nervous funk (No One Receiving), and spacier dreamscapes (Energy, Julie). I quite prefer the second half of this album, which in its textural bliss culminates in the gorgeous Spider and I, which is a fitting farewell to Eno's "vocal" era. As on his previous album Another Green World, Eno makes use of the deft rhythm battery of Phil Collins and Percy Jones, who were both playing in Brand X at the time. (And one of 'em was in Genesis, too, I think.) For all his talk about being a non-musician, blah blah blah, Eno knew the value of hiring top creative players, and he himself is no slouch at playing imaginative keyboards - listen to that almost orchestral buildup in Julie With. So, the music gets four stars from me, even if a couple of the tracks grate the nerves on occasion.
But if you're reading this, chances are you're wondering about the SOUND of these reissues. I had cassettes of these early Eno albums back in college, I had original CDs, I had the 1993 boxsets...and I figured this time out, we'd get the once-and-for-all, definitive, hi-quality editions we'd all been waiting for. And...er...well, it's nothing that drastic. These are not remasters, these are not remixes, these are "retransfers"; to my ears, this apparently means a wee bit more clarity, a wee bit higher CD master volume (but not much), and that's it. No doubt they sound better than the original CDs, but it's not much of an improvement over what was heard in the Vocal and Instrumental boxsets over a decade ago. And those were needing an upgrade, if you ask me.
The problem is in the original mixes. No One Receiving, for example, buries the drums and removes almost all the visceral punch you could expect from a track with two basses. It's maddening to have to adjust your home EQ/volume to try and bring this track out of its shell. On the other hand, Kurt's Rejoinder puts the bass WAY OUT THERE, and I'm left wondering why Eno couldn't have found a happy medium somewhere. Actually, it's some of the bass/drum tracks on Another Green World that frustrate me the most, but there are bits on this album, particularly the leadoff track, that could have used some 2004 tweaking.
To clarify, I'm not complaining about the analog beauty of the album. Those keyboard washes in Julie With sound wonderful to me, better than any digital recording. There's a "datedness" to the sound of this record that cannot be replaced (or fixed). But I'm still left with the opinion that these latest reissues are not all they could have been. Nevertheless, these have become the definitive editions for now, so grab this album and its predecessor, have your remote handy, turn out the lights, cue up and enjoy.
on July 15, 2004
Car music. Ride with this music. Or sit and burn candles. Or make spaghetti. Unlike his more backgroundy music this is music to move to as well. The thing is it is ESSENTIAL. You must have this album. And Another Green World. The album with John Cale - Wrong Way Up completes the triumverate. These three are must haves. Which is better? Impossible to say. Taking Tiger Mountain and Appllo ... also excellent. But get Before and After Science and decide which side is 'before'? Or just ride with it. Eno is great and this may be his greatest.
on January 31, 2009
One of my favourite Eno albums, he has an ordinary voice that he uses to great advantage, This is completely the opposite to his ambient music. He gets right into it with No One Receiving Eno is really a super arranger of sounds much the same way one arranges sounds of an orchestra except without conventional instruements. This CD and Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy are just so much fun. Top Marks.
on June 3, 2004
"Before and After Science" represented Eno in peak form. It's mixture of art-rock songs and ambient instrumental passages marked a turning point for him as well; this would be the last solo album where he would sing for more than a decade. "No One Receiving" with its funky, lumpy bass line and it's odd melody immediately captures your attention. "King's Lead Hat" (an anagram for Talking Heads) reflected Eno's hope that he would be selected (which he was) to produce the band's albums. In fact, you can hear echoes of Eno on the trio of Heads albums he produced. While there's no denying David Bryne and the band's genius, it's clear that Eno had a huge impact as a producer on helping the band expand on their original sound.
"Spider and I" closes the album with one of Eno's most gentle melodies. It sounds almost like a lullaby and the gentle music could easily lull you to sleep. It helped set the stage for Eno's next stage where he devoted himself full time to developing ambient projects.
The remastered sound using the DSD system comes through with the vibrance and warmth one would expect from the album. While the previous edition of the album sounded very good, there's better clarity and depth evident in the recording on this edition even when listened to on a cheap stereo system. My only disappointment is the lack of thought put into the packaging. There's no liner notes, no lyrics and while the cardboard digipak is housed in a nice plastic container, the presentation inside is bare bones. We get the album credits and no more. While that reflects the original issue of the album on vinyl, it wouldn't have hurt to expand the packaging (and include a bonus track or two).
on July 9, 2003
In this, which I believe to be his seminal vocal work, we are treated to searingly intelligent lyrical manipulation and groovy, catchy, but still mysteriously progressive instrumentation. "Backwater" recalls some of the lyrical style of Here Come The Warm Jets, but has an electric piano driven bass line that still hits you even after 25 years. I grew up listening to everything from Eno to Cream to the Clash and back again, and this album is easily in the top ten for me. Eno uses the foreshadowing of the album title in very subtle ways throughout the work, allowing you to relax and enjoy or stare avidly at the album cover as you seek to discover all the marvelous nuances in the music, even down to track order. Remember this was released BEFORE CD's, so it was an album, with a front and back side to it. That simple knowledge alone enhances the experience. If you don't have the whole album, and just downloaded a few songs, you can't truly appeciate it as the stylized work of art that it truly is. Better yet, purchase the LP and play it on your tube amp system for that wonderfully warm sound from the "Days before Digital"!!
on April 2, 2003
This was Eno's fourth and final "song" album, and the only one that I would not give five stars. It is still a very good album, however. My favorite tracks are "Here He Comes" (smooth pop bliss), "No One Receiving" (indescribably funky), and "Kurt's Rejoinder" (the bassline will give you whiplash).
There are no bad tracks here, and it is probably Eno's most eclectic work. "King's Lead Hat" sounds like something from the first album, "Backwater" would have fit right in on "Tiger Mountain," and some of the quiet material on side two is reminiscent of "Another Green World."
I agree with the earlier reviewers who said that this album makes more sense on vinyl because of the radical difference between side one and side two. I have it on vinyl, along with the three other "song" albums, and though I listen to it less often than "Tiger Mountain" and "Another Green World" (my favorites), I do enjoy it.
But it seems that Eno's weariness with songwriting was beginning to show, not in the songs themselves but in the album's lack of cohesion. I think of "Before and After Science" as a very good collection of singles with tracks 7-9--the quiet ones--fitting together to form a mini-suite.
on March 26, 2002
Even though "Another Green World" is so much more groundbreaking in terms of where Eno would go after his first couple of records, "Before and After Science" is my personal favorite of the two. Eno has an interesting way of keeping the songs rooted to their original themes (unlike "Dead Finks" from HCTWJ), and I think this makes them more accesible. Also the fact that the original themes are very simple. Although the tracks range over all sorts of musical styles and ideas, they seem to be unified in some way, I don't know what...
My favorite tracks are "Energy Fools The Magician" and "Spider and I". The first is an example of an Eno "collage", you can see how all sorts of little pieces were shoved together to make the track. The latter is one of Eno's best "minimalist words" pices, where no word in the lyrics can be removed without hurting the whole. Also, some fabulous synthesizer work on this one, almost as good as "Becalmed" from AGW.
I never had the vinyl, but I can imagine how the break in sides would benefit the structural arrangement of the album. The idea of having two contrasting sides on the album was something Eno had wanted David Bowie to do in Berlin (he didn't do it for "Low" but finally did on "Heroes"), and the 4 pictures that come with the album are a realizatin of the "Sound And Vision" idea, also created with Bowie, where the sound is the album, and the vision is the 4 pictures.
In essence, this album combines the "pop" stylings of HCTWJ and TTMBS with the "ambient" ideas first expressed on "AGW". If you want good Eno, this (along with "AGW" and "Thursday Afternoon") should be your first buy.
on November 29, 2001
If you come to this disc immediately after listening to Another Green World you will be struck by the vastly different sounds being explored. Before and After Science could be called Before and After Rhythm. Its said that Eno was responsible for turning Talking Heads onto some of the interesting rhythms they used on More Songs about Building and Food, that rhythmic sense is alive here on some of these songs as well. The first track,"No One Receiving", actually almost sounds like Station to Station(though of course with major modifications) era Bowie with its cool white funk groove. And "Kurt's Rejoinder" also has a funk groove and African beat thing flowing through it. Of course Bowie and Eno were right in the middle of their collaborative period in 77 which would culminate with 1979's Lodger which has Eno's rythmic experiments taking more steps ahead and even further down the road was more Heads experiments and the Byrne/Eno's '82 My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. Anyway its fun to trace the influences when you own enough 70's discs. "Kings Lead Hat" as others have noted is a talking heads encouragement song, but what a fun song"...it will come it will come it will surely come". Success I suppose. Of course if Eno leant out Fripp and Manzanera who both play on the track it might come even sooner. I used to have this on vinyl and as others have mentioned the altered track order on the disc does take some getting used to, but if you've never owned an old copy that won't be a concern. The most striking difference between this and Another Green World is that on the earlier AGW Eno creates and populates a whole new world with his very organic synthesizers which often sound like they are foraging around much in the same way we do. His organic synthesizer world seems a very pleasing one and every track melds so well into the next. The sound and feel of AGW still feels as different and as new listening to it now as it did when I first heard it. Before and After Science is a little more dated. Enos voice sounds like Alan Parsons on occasion, as in "Julie With..."but only a little bit, and that is an otherwise beautiful song. The words and the quiet guitar part make that perhaps the most memorable track. Little bit of a borrowed melody perhaps, as many of Enos melodys seem to be.Perhaps the post-mod thing makes that "appropriating" perfectly acceptible. "By this River" is equally beautiful. The instrumental tracks are very powerful for being so simple. They don't have the sweep and grandeur of AGW instrumentals but thats not to say one approach is preferable. Just they each produce their own distinct kind of effect. A very different sound than AGW. "Through Hollow Lands" and "Spider and I" are early Ambient numbers that would fit well on those records, though that second one does have words, and may remind some of the closer on Tiger Mountain, called, appropriatley enough, Tiger Mountain. Eno is some kind of master, of what I am not certain, but a master at some arcane art. I almost forgot "Energy Fools the Magician" which is a sort of self contained instrumental sounding nothing like anything else on the disc but a very aptly titled number that.
on August 21, 2001
I have been listening to Eno for about 15 years. This is one album that never fails to relax and/or completely inspire me. It has always impressed new Eno explorers that I've recommended it to as well.
I know that out of his 70's solo albums, the most written about is Another Green World, which is also fantastic. But there is something about Before and After Science that has more of a timeless feel. You can hear the inspiration this album gave many artists throughout the last 2 decades. The first half is sonically twisted rock while the second half relies heavily on ambient soundscapes. Both to excellent results.
I really have no words to express the beauty that is wrapped in this album- "Spider & I" and "By This River" are two of the best songs Eno has ever done, musically and lyrically. I strongly suggest to anyone having an interest in Eno's early work to check this album out. It comes from his glam rock past and points toward his ambient future.
An incredible introduction to Eno's solo work and the work he does with so many different artists.
on August 7, 2000
From the avant-garde rock of "No One Receiving" to the soft, hymn-like "Spider and I", this is one fine album that I listen to often (start to finish without skipping). There are only two instrumentals on here ("Energy Fools the Magician" and "Through Hollow Lands"..."Energy Fools the Magician" being the better one) and the vocal tracks make you realize the power and structure of Brian Eno's songwriting. "Backwater" is a fun song that features the piano...similar to "St. Elmo's Fire" and "I'll Come Running" from Another Green World. Songs 1-5 are mostly energetic, and 6-10 are softer. The softer songs are the most enjoyable ones. "Julie With", "By This River" and "No One Receiving" are my favorites on here. The keyboard parts in "Julie With" and "By This River are really touching and beautiful. Before and After Science is very essential if you enjoyed Another Green World. Although it's not as good, it will make you appreciate Eno's music even more.