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ONE RING ZERO As Smart As We Are

(Soft Skull Press)

***

One of the stranger musical histories in recent memory belongs to One Ring Zero, who have embedded themselves amidst the NYC literary elite. Dave Eggers and company regularly ask the group to play at readings, and they are currently on tour--not with another band, but with My Less Than Secret Life author Jonathan Ames. Their new album has a fantastic hook: the lyrics of every song have been penned by a respective famous writer, invited from a list that includes Margaret Atwood, Rick Moody, Paul Auster and Amy Fusselman. But, does this project have anything to offer beyond collector's item gimmickry? Actually, yes. A lilting band with klezmer influences, ORZ fuse cool harmonica and accordion riffs with singable melodies. Stand out tracks tend to have guest vocalists, like Hanna Cheek's performance on "Half and Half" and F.A. Blasco on "Nothing Else is Happening." The lyrics are surprisingly good, too, with a few writers demonstrating they might have joined the wrong profession. Myla Goldberg on "Golem": Shovel me some red dirt full of kaolinite, / Mold myself a lover who'll last more than one night." JUSTIN WESCOAT SANDERS

BRIAN ENO

Here Come the Warm Jets; Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy); Another Green World; Before and After Science

(Virgin/Astralwerks)

****

It's ironic that Brian Eno, British intellectual and totemic ambient musician/theorist, had a hand in at least eight of the greatest rock albums of all time--including these reissued solo works. It's especially amazing for someone who claims not to be a musician.

Following his exit from art-glam aces Roxy Music, Eno unleashed Here Come the Warm Jets (1973), the greatest debut album ever by a non-musician. Jets takes off with the uproarious glam-rock of "Needles in the Camel's Eye," and you instantly sense Eno's glee upon escaping Roxy leader Bryan Ferry's tight velvet grip. Enlisting former bandmates and recruiting guitarist Robert Fripp, Eno crafted weirdly gorgeous pop songs built to last, befuddle, and terrify. The cult hit "Baby's on Fire" embodied all of these qualities, with Fripp's baroque, scathing solo tearing chunks from your brain. On Jets, Eno proved that Kraut-rock's drone and repetition can harmoniously coexist with arched-eyebrow British pop. Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) (1974) boasts even more tartly memorable melodies than its predecessor. He places his speediest cut ("Third Uncle") next to his gentlest lullaby ("Put a Straw under Baby"). Another Green World (1975) signals Eno's drift into sumptuous texture and ambience, but it also offers oddly pretty songs working stiffs can sing, especially the translucent "I'll Come Running" and "St. Elmo's Fire." AGW contains some of this world's most haunting, delicate instrumentals. Before and After Science (1977) is both rock-era Eno's funkiest and most blissed-out album. And I haven't said anything yet about Eno's oblique poetry or plummy vocals, which bring endless pleasure. DAVE SEGAL

**** Tarantula Hawk

*** Vampire Bat

** Tiger Shark

* Spider Monkey

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