"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Trouser Press JANUARY 1978 - by Staff Writers
801: LISTEN NOW
Bryan Ferry looks like a chameleon and Phil Manzanera acts like one. Perhaps that's why they still get along. Diamond Head, Phil's first solo album (released over two years ago), was a warm and charming patchwork of contributions from Eno, John Wetton and Bill MacCormick; aurally disparate but all first-rate material. 801 Live was sort of an Odd Ditties Phil/Eno style. And now, I suppose due to the unspoken-but-apparently-so end of Roxy Music, he has put together a real band and graced us with Listen Now, an obsessively Enoid, cold concept album - the pragmatic cynic's guide to today and tomorrow.
The primary musicians are Manzanera on guitar, vocalist Simon Ainley, lyricist Bill MacCormick on bass, and drummer Simon Phillips. Appearances are also made by Mel Collins, Lol Creme, Eno, Tim Finn, Kevin Godley, Eddie Jobson, Billy Livsey, Ian MacCormick, Dave Mattacks, Francis Monkman, Eddie Raynor and John White.
As a whole, the magnificently packaged Listen Now is a baffling record; philosophically it leaves much to be desired and musically is rather standoffish. Yet I keep listening to it over and over again and suspect I will shortly become addicted. The opening title cut is a tremendous pastiche with a Wall Street Shuffle back-beat provided by Godley and Mattacks, the ambience of Diamond Head's Alma, a big-band break courtesy of Mel Collins, and chanting refrain of "now listen, now now listen" identical to the "shop steward" chorus in Manzanera/Eno's Miss Shapiro.
Flight 19 (the single), which I had written off as bland pop, sounds much better in the context of the LP but is still primarily a vehicle for Ainley's creepy cloned Eno voice. Island is a beautiful instrumental reminiscent of Another Green World, with darkly lyrical guitar and bass interweavings. Law And Order, while a nice song, verbally is painfully cliched, sort of a Dragnet cast reunion in 1984.
Que?, a brief instrumental, opens the second side and segues into City Of Light, which begins by strangely but successfully pairing the percussion of Eno's Sombre Reptiles and the middle break in A Day In The Life. Initial Speed, a weak instrumental, reveals the Godley/Creme gizmo; in this case truth is surely better than consequences. Postcard Love is a beautiful bittersweet song of unrequited love: "You bared your heart / She trumped it every time." That Falling Feeling closes the album with some fine guitar and a perfect description of the mental state of Manzanera/MacCormick et al. on Listen Now. I hope they cheer up.