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Brian Eno - Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) CD (album) cover

TAKING TIGER MOUNTAIN (BY STRATEGY)

Brian Eno

 

Progressive Electronic

3.68 | 177 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
5 stars Having been freed as a member of Roxy Music, BRIAN ENO wasted no time delving into his myriad projects with not only one but two super strong solo albums emerging in 1974. The first release "Here Come The Warm Jets" managed to forge a new branch of the glam rock meets art pop started out by Roxy Music albeit with a completely new indie pop quirk absent from Bryan Ferry's vernacular. At the tail end of the year ENO unleashed his second offering in the form of the bizarrely titled TAKING TIGER MOUNTAIN (BY STRATEGY) which was meant to be a loose concept album inspired by a series of postcards of a Chinese revolutionary opera. The themes and concepts attempt to tackle everything from espionage to the Chinese Communist revolution and found ENO taking a darker tone lyrically all the while crafting a bouncier and more upbeat art pop sound than his debut.

TAKING TIGER MOUNTAIN (BY STRATEGY) also focuses on a core of five musicians without the lengthy roster of guest musicians on the debut. From his Roxy Music days he was joined by Phil Manzanera on guitars as well as Brian Turrington on bass, Freddie Smith on drums and a special guest appearance by none other than Robert Wyatt who provided percussion as well as backing vocals. Manzanera is notable for being a prime player on the album with not only his stellar guitar contributions but his role in assistant producer which allows an anything goes sort of approach to the album and as a result exudes an air of eccentricity above and beyond anything in the Roxy Music playbook. To further the mystique of the album, ENO and his friend Peter Schmidt developed a set of instruction cards called Oblique Strategies that would dictate certain decisions about the recording process, therefore completely random ideas were thrown in on the mere whim of which card dictated what, an eccentricity that ENO was famous for entertaining.

While lyrically TAKING TIGER MOUNTAIN (BY STRATEGY) is connected by a nebulous conceptual theme of sorts, musically the album is all over the place with quirky indie pop hooks and the peculiar the only commonalities. Right from the very first notes of "Burning Airlines Give You So Much More," it's apparent that the pop hooks are heavily embellished by off-kilter out of tune counterpoints, slightly off center harmonic overdubs and intricate little guitar riffs that sound as if they are on the verge of complete abandonment but somehow finding resounding resolution. The jittery marching rhythms that exude tracks like "Back In Judy's Jungle" find themselves popping up in unexpected ways and early doses of post-punk even find their way in Turrington's bass abuse on the ahead of its time "Third Uncle" which distinguishes the accidental playing of a key finding its way into legendary status especially after having been covered by Bauhaus.

Despite the effort to create a less abrasive and more minimalistic album that forged a more uniform sound, TAKING TIGER MOUNTAIN (BY STRATEGY) is a monstrously wild album that traverses the quirkiest aspects of avant-pop coupled with the earliest forms of art rock teased out into a never ending series of arhythmic patterns, cannonades of jangle guitar and Asian overtones. The post-punk connections cannot be understated as many post-Sex Pistols punk rockers have taken many of the more aggressive aspects of TAKING TIGER MOUNTAIN to heart. ENO single handedly managed to give birth to an incredibly diverse mix of styles that remain influential in the modern day. Through the wild and woolly glam rock ride of "The True Wheel" to the more subdued title track that ends the album and points to a more electronically infused future, this sophomore album unleashes a surprisingly diverse palette of indie quirk.

Like many of the early ENO albums, TAKING TIGER MOUNTAIN (BY STRATEGY) exudes an uncanny prescience of musical trends that hadn't yet come into fruition. ENO always seemed like he had his hands on an invisible pulse that only came into the limelight years later. This album percolates an infinite number of ideas that would eventually express themselves in much larger musical scenes. It's hard to believe that BRIAN ENO is mostly known for his ambient and electronic music when such Earth shattering indie rock found on his earliest recordings exists. This is some of the most fascinating music to exist in a rock context and while it's utterly infectious even upon first exposure, it contains just enough weirdness to continue to be exciting decades after its inception. For my money, this second offering of 1974 is a step above the first and that's a pretty tall order. Nerd music for nerd's paradise.

siLLy puPPy | 5/5 |

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