Nerve Net

Brian Eno (Guest artists include Robert Fripp and Roger Eno)

TRACKS: 1—Fractal Zoom; 2—Wire Shock; 3—What Actually Happened?; 4—Pierre in Mist; 5—My Squelchy Life; 6—Juju Space Jazz; 7—The Roil, The Choke; 8—Ali Click; 9—Web; 10—Web (Lascaux Mix); 11—Decentre

RELEASE DATE: September 1, 1992

TAGS: Electronica, Horrible, Painful, Fuggeddabowdit

RATING: ☆☆☆☆☆

In the liner notes, Eno says, “This record is: like Paella, a self-contradictory mess, off balance, unlocked, dissonant, frenetic, evanescent, overheated, godless, clockless, reckless, squelchy, un-American, technically naïve, far too vague, derivative of everything, post cool, post root, crunchy, bluff, post world, post man, too much, not enough, revisionist, shamelessly exhibitionist, untailored, uncentered, clearly the work of a mind in distress, where-am-I music.” He is wrong on two counts: He left out “appalling,” and it certainly isn’t “music.”

Brian Eno is one of my favorite artists, when he’s operating in his realm of greatest expertise: Ambient electronica, such as Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks, much of his Ambient series, and Thursday Afternoon. When he goes off on the musical equivalent of a bad acid trip (like such albums as Before and After Science and large chunks of Another Green World), he is truly wretched to the point of making one’s ears, eyes, nose, and rectum bleed without let. This, alas, is one such atrocity.

The cuts that don’t sound like bad disco (if you’ll pardon my being repetitive) come across instead as pretentious, purposeless, directionless, and unnecessary. The term “deconstructionalist” had some sway about the time this album was produced, but it seems to be less a revamping of “avant garde” and more an excuse to produce garbage and pass it off as chic. Eno is guilty of attempting to make a statement that is itself so repugnant as to go blissfully unnoticed and quite properly dismissed with any or all of the commentary from his liner notes.

Miscellaneous influences and would-be tribute to various musical forms appear everywhere. Parts of the album sound like the cacophonous background to rap “music”; other parts borrow from the highly industrial sounds used to much greater effect by the German group Kraftwerk (pioneers of electronic music since the 70s). The cut “Distributed Being” tries to mix jazz piano, rock guitar, a 60s-style rock organ, and some of the more exotic effects used on the compilation album Dali (Coriolis Records), but the result is disappointing in the same general fashion as a turd soufflé. And this, amazingly, is one of the few cuts I was able to withstand from start to finish with hemorrhaging.

The collected noise sounds like a parody of what “the older generation” must have thought upon first hearing “acid rock” of the Jimi Hendrix or early Pink Floyd variety. The pity of this assemblage is that there’s no way to tell if it’s meant to be a parody. If so, it becomes tiresome quickly; if not, it becomes tiresome even more quickly, as it has nothing remotely resembling artistry in any form or description, and to call it “music” is a blasphemy worthy of bringing back crucifixion.

It goes against my nature to find absolutely nothing worthwhile in any endeavor (even various politicians are material for laughs). If there is a genuine attempt to create art in any form, I will try to find something to praise, even if it grates every nerve in my body. (I care nothing at all for Arnold Schoenberg and his Pierrot Lunaire, but I have enough training in music to understand his intent… gods help us.) The final cut, “Decentre,” is a solo, inflicted… excuse me, performed by Eno upon what he calls “moon piano.” Like the rest of the album, it’s truly not worth listening to, but it’s at least less offensive than the rest. There are the faintest glimpses of real music hiding amid the disjointed cacophony, although it’s truly not worth trying to discover.

I contacted my local office of the EPA for assistance in disposing of the monstrosity; a hazmat team arrived in due course, bagged the offensive material, and provided some emergency Bach and Harold Budd recordings to help stanch the wounds. I was informed that as many copies as could be found were to be launched into a distant sun, but that I should take particular care in avoiding exposure to anything else of its ilk, and should you need their emergency number, I can provide it to you. Considering the dangers of the Internet, you might want to keep it handy…

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