Brian Eno’s new album is called Reflection, and what better time to reflect on an astonishing career? Or careers. There’s the first incarnation of Eno as the leopardskin-shirted synth-twiddler who overshadowed the more obviously mannered Bryan Ferry in Roxy Music. With his shoulder-length hair and androgynous beauty, there was something otherworldly about Eno. He was as preposterous as he was cool. So cool that, back then, he didn’t bother with a first name.
After two wonderfully adventurous albums he left and Roxy became more conventional. There followed a sustained solo career, starting with the more poppy Here Come the Warm Jets, progressing to the defiant obscurity of his ambient albums and on to commercial Eno, the revered producer behind many of the great Bowie, Talking Heads, U2 and Coldplay records.
There is Eno the visionary, who helped conceive a 10,000-year clock and invented an influential pack of cards called Oblique Strategies that offer creative solutions for people in a pickle. There is Eno the visual artist; Eno the activist, tirelessly campaigning for a fairer world; and Eno the philosopher, endlessly thinking of ways in which to bring this new world about.