In 2010, on their underrated second album Congratulations, MGMT paid homage to Brian Eno on a track named, well, “Brian Eno.” In the song’s opening line, they talking about following music to a cathedral, and finding out Eno had produced the music they were hearing. It was a fitting tribute to one of the most important musicians and producers in the history of modern music. Chances are, even if you’ve never heard of Eno, who has a new album, The Ship, out this week, you’ve listened to plenty of music that has been either produced by him, or heavily influenced by him.
Eno began his career with the English glam rock group Roxy Music, where he would play keyboards on their first two albums, Roxy Music and For Her Pleasure. His playing was a big part in the band’s mixture of glam rock bravado and atmospherics. When he left the band in 1974, they continued to make great music, but their approach was far more straightforward, as Eno’s experimental touch was no longer part of the sound.
After going solo, Eno released two glam-inspired albums, Here Come the Warm Jets and Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy). Both albums were gloriously weird and brilliant, but Eno was just beginning to see how far he could stretch the conventions of popular music. That would really start to happen in 1975, when he released Another Green World, an album that would essentially bridge the gap between rock music and what we now know as ambient. Several of the tracks were instrumental, and even those with vocals were both atmospheric and hypnotic. On “I’ll Come Running,” the chant of “I’ll come running to tie your shoe” blends in with the rest of the music. This was where Eno really began to show what he was capable of, and where he would go next would revolutionize music.