If you have/had huge expectations around this – a “dream pairing” as everyone is saying – the collaborative album by Underworld’s Karl Hyde and Brian Eno you might well be disappointed. This is an album that has plenty of promising starts but never ever nails it; never hits the home run. The opener, The Satellites, feels like Hyde forced out a few words and a bridge to one of Eno’s ad-commissions, or the leftovers from whenever he last wrote a piece for Apple or some such.
But then, track two, Daddy’s Car, we have a throwback to the Remain In Light–era Talking Heads and that wonderful Eno/Byrne album from the same time, My Life In The Bush of Ghosts. In fact this is far more David Byrne-like than anything on the last Eno/Byrne album. Eno’s pastel-drawn synth lines create plenty of bubble and weave in and around the synthetic-Afrobeat rhythm and Hyde’s voice is – as ever – pretty great. And this is the best cut on the album. A giant fucking standout.
So that’s the good news.
The bad news? Well, that is the best song on the album. We still have the rest of the album to go. So there are pokey, go-nowhere anti-segues like Man Wakes Up, nifty but not really necessary when there’s a new Dirty Projectors album every 18 months or so.
Strip It Down reminds me of the very earliest Hot Chip material, the best sounds that band offered actually. And is the next best thing to Daddy’s Car. But then we’re back to the thin-mantra style of moody-chant vocals and the same sets of sound-colours in support, washing out in the watery synthscapes, never (quite) holding up to much.
It’s no huge disaster – just nothing like the second coming that dance music and Eno enthusiasts might have expected. Some probably still think it is. It’s not. It’s adequate. Thoroughly adequate. And then – sometimes – just a little bit better than that too.
But Eno, of course, will have already moved on. And that’s ultimately what matters. I think?