For all the rightful credit that Brian Eno receives for being a sonic innovator who helped bolster the experimental music scenes in Europe, the almost 66-year-old musician/producer has long balanced that with support for more pop/song-driven projects.
His 1977 rock album Before and After Science was followed by his gorgeous ambient experiment Music For Airports. His work on U2’s The Unforgettable Fire was only a year away from the ethereal 60-minute composition Thursday Afternoon. So it is that this collaboration with Underworld front man Karl Hyde arrives only two years after his previous album of formless compositions intended for art gallery installations (2012’s Lux).
Although his name is top-billed here, Eno takes more of a supporting role here. And it’s a necessary part to play. With his calm, steady-eyed approach to harmonics, he helps temper the more sluggish and histrionic tendencies that Hyde relied on in Underworld and his previous solo efforts. That doesn’t stop the speak-singing vocalist from splaying out more of his stream-of-consciousness image-heavy poetics. But they come off far less leaden and laughable surrounded by the warm embrace of the sounds that the two (with producer Fred Gibson) cooked up.
The music is the strongest element of Someday World, just dramatic enough to have you leaning in to follow its every move, but with a hearty dancefloor-driven pulse. As well, the album feels separated in two, with the quartet of tracks that close the album sharing an oil dark thrum that gets cut through with sandpaper-like percussion (“Mother of a Dog”), African-inspired guitar melodies and delicate female vocals (“Who Rings The Bell”) and slowly-building waves of guitar and choral singing (the lovely “To Us All”). The other half of the album feels sun-kissed and giddy, like the early throes of a MDMA buzz. These tracks provide for the most memorable moments of the LP, and the most earworm melodies like the lilting choruses of “Daddy’s Car” and “Witness.”
Would that more songs got their hooks into you like those two. The album is an entirely agreeable listen, but the majority of it slips right into the ether after fading into silence. As much as I hate to lay the brunt of this failing on Hyde, the man isn’t much of a vocal tunesmith. I hate to lay the brunt of that on Hyde, but the man isn’t much of a vocal tunesmith. He occasionally surprises you with something as indelible as “Always Loved A Film” from Underworld’s last album Barking. Far too often, though, the hooks don’t catch. Eno does his best to keep things floating on Someday World, but without a partner able to punch in the same weight class, their combined efforts end up uneven and lopsided.