As founding members of, respectively, Roxy Music and the Velvet Underground, Brian Eno and John Cale defied taboos and became pivotal rock role models. On their many solo records, they have individually explored everything from atmospheric electronics to symphonic renderings of Dylan Thomas poetry. But sometimes even serious artists just want to have fun, and Wrong Way Up is — of all things — a catchy pop album.
Gently influenced by the pair’s exotic cultural travels, Wrong Way Up‘s melodic songs — concise inventions with verses, choruses, and hooks would not sound wildly out of place on Top 40 radio. Different eras of dance music — doo-wop, Motown, disco and technopop — form the basis for some of the songs; cowboy lyrics and rollicking saloon piano set the character of others. A variety of guest musicians and the partnership’s shifting balance (Cale and Eno divide the songwriting and vocals a number of different ways) keep the album in constant stylistic motion, but a seductively fizzy sound binds it together. Digging far from their usual turf, Cale and Eno have come up with one of the year’s most delightful surprises. A-