Before and After Science

Before and After Science is the fifth studio album by British musician Brian Eno. Produced by Eno and Rhett Davies, it was originally released by Polydor Records in December 1977 in the UK and by US Island soon after. Guest musicians from the United Kingdom and Germany helped with the album, including members of Roxy Music, Free, Fairport Convention, Can and Cluster. Over one hundred tracks were written with only ten making the album's final cut. The musical styles of the album range from energetic and jagged to more languid and pastoral.

Before and After Science
A picture of the album cover depicting a white border with a stark black and white image of the side profile of Brian Eno's face. In the top right corner is Brian Eno's name. In the bottom right corner the album's title is written.
Studio album by
ReleasedDecember 1977 (1977-12)
StudioBasing Street Studios, London; Conny's Studio, Cologne[1]
ProducerBrian Eno, Rhett Davies
Brian Eno chronology
Cluster & Eno
Before and After Science
Ambient 1: Music for Airports
Singles from Before and After Science
  1. "King's Lead Hat"
    Released: January 1978

The album marks Eno's last foray into rock music as a solo artist, with all following albums showcasing more of Eno's avant-garde and ambient music, which was hinted at on the second half of Before and After Science. The album was Eno's second to chart in the United States. The song "King's Lead Hat", the title of which is an anagram for Talking Heads, was remixed and released as a single, although it didn't chart in the United Kingdom. Critical response to the album has remained positive, with several critics calling it one of Eno's best works.


Unlike Eno's previous albums, which were recorded in a very short time, Before and After Science was two years in the making.[6] During this two-year period, Eno was busy working on his solo ambient music albums Music for Films and Discreet Music.[6] Due to the very positive critical reception accorded his previous rock music-oriented album Another Green World, Eno was afraid of repeating himself but still wanted to release a high-quality product.[6]

As on previous rock-based recordings, for Before and After Science Eno worked with a plethora of guest musicians. Several artists from German and British groups of the era contributed to the album, collaborating with Eno for the first time. Guitarist Fred Frith caught the attention of Brian Eno who was "excited by the timbral possibilities that [Frith had] been discovering" on his album Guitar Solos.[7] Eno asked Frith to record with him, and this resulted in Frith playing guitar on the album.[7] Jaki Liebezeit of the German krautrock group Can played drums for Eno on "Backwater", while German ambient music group Cluster contributed to the songwriting and instrumentation of the track "By This River".[1][8] Eno had previously worked with Cluster on their album Cluster & Eno released in 1977.[9] Additional session musicians included Dave Mattacks of British folk band Fairport Convention, who contributed drums to "Kurt's Rejoinder" and "Here He Comes", and Andy Fraser of British blues rock band Free, who played drums on "King's Lead Hat".[1][10][11]

Eno also had several musicians who he had worked with on previous solo albums return. Percy Jones of Brand X and Phil Collins of Brand X and Genesis, who had been on Eno's two previous rock albums, played bass and drums respectively.[8] Other contributors included Robert Fripp of King Crimson, Paul Rudolph of Hawkwind and Bill MacCormick and Phil Manzanera of Quiet Sun.[12] Robert Wyatt went under the pseudonym of Shirley Williams and is credited on the album for "time" and "brush timbales" on "Through Hollow Lands" and "Kurt's Rejoinder" respectively.[13] Working extensively with the musicians and his instructional cards—the Oblique Strategies—during the two years working on the album, Eno wrote over one hundred songs.[1][6][14]

Music and lyricsEdit

Jim DeRogatis, author of Turn on Your Mind: Four Decades of Great Psychedelic Rock, described the overall sound of Before and After Science as "the coldest and most clinical of Eno's pop efforts",[15] while David Ross Smith of online music database AllMusic wrote that "Despite the album's pop format, the sound is unique and strays far from the mainstream".[8] According to David Bowie's biographer Thomas Jerome Seabrook, the album is "split between up-tempo art-rock on side one and more pastoral material on side two",[2] while Piotr Orlov of LA Weekly categorized it as an art pop record.[4] The album's opening tracks "No One Receiving" and "Backwater" start the album as upbeat and bouncy songs.[8] "King's Lead Hat" is an anagram of Talking Heads, a new wave group Eno had met after a concert in England when they were touring with Ramones.[16][17] Eno would later produce Talking Heads' second, third and fourth albums, including Remain in Light.[18] The last five songs of the album have been described as having "an occasional pastoral quality" and being "pensive and atmospheric".[8]

Opposed to Another Green World's music, which Eno described as "sky music", Eno referred to the music of Before and After Science as "ocean music".[14] References to water in the lyrics appear in songs such as "Backwater", "Julie With..." and "By this River".[19] Author Simon Reynolds noted themes of "boredom" and "bliss" through the album, citing "Here He Comes", about "a boy trying to vanish by floating through the sky through a different time" and "Spider and I", about a boy watching the sky and dreaming about being carried away with a ship, as examples.[19] Eno's songwriting style was described as "a sound-over-sense approach".[8] Influenced by poet Kurt Schwitters, Eno consciously did not make songwriting or lyrics the main focus in the music.[8] Tom Carson of Rolling Stone noted this style, stating that the lyrics are "only complementary variables" to the music on the album.[20] Lester Bangs commented on Eno's lyrical style on "Julie with..." stating that the lyrics’ themes "could be a murderer's ruminations, or simply a lovers' retreat... or Julie could be three years old".[14] Schwitters' influence is also shown on the song "Kurt's Rejoinder", on which samples of Schwitters' poem "Ursonate" can be heard.[8][16]


Peter Schmidt's "Four Years" was one of four prints included in the original pressings of the album[21]

Before and After Science was released in December 1977 on Polydor in the United Kingdom and on Island in the United States.[22] The first pressings of the album included four offset prints by Peter Schmidt.[21] The back cover of the LP says "Fourteen Pictures" under the album title, referencing Eno's ten songs and Peter Schmidt's 4 prints. These prints included "The Road to the Crater", "Look at September, look at October", "The Other House" and "Four Years".[21] The album did not chart in the United Kingdom, but was Eno's first album since Here Come the Warm Jets to chart in the United States, where it peaked at 171 on the Billboard Top LPs & Tapes chart.[23][24] "King's Lead Hat" was remixed and released as a single in January 1978, featuring the B-side "R.A.F.", which is credited to "Eno & Snatch" (in the UK, not the US).[22] This single failed to chart and has never been reissued in any form.[23][24]

Before and After Science was re-issued on compact disc through E.G. Records in January 1987.[22] In 2004, Virgin Records began reissuing Eno's albums in batches of four to five.[25] The remastered digipak release of Before and After Science was released on 31 May 2004 in the United Kingdom and on 1 June 2004 in North America.[26]

Critical receptionEdit

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [8]
Blender     [27]
Christgau's Record GuideA−[28]
Entertainment WeeklyA[29]
Mojo     [30]
The New Zealand Herald     [31]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [33]
Spin Alternative Record Guide9/10[34]

On the album's initial release, the album received very positive reviews from rock critics. Writing for Creem, Joe Fernbacher called the Before and After Science "the perfect Eno album",[35] while Mitchell Schneider wrote a positive review in Crawdaddy!, stating that he couldn't "remember the last time a record took such a hold of [him]—and gave [him] such an extreme case of vertigo, too".[36] In Down Beat, Russel Shaw wrote that "[Before and After Science] is another typically awesome, stunning and numbing Brian Eno album—the record Pink Floyd could make if they set their collective mind to it."[37] Tom Carson of Rolling Stone noted that the album "is less immediately ingratiating than either Taking Tiger Mountain or Here Come the Warm Jets. Still, the execution here is close to flawless, and despite Eno's eclecticism, the disparate styles he employs connect brilliantly."[20] Critic Robert Christgau gave the album an A− rating, stating that he "didn't like the murkiness of the quiet, largely instrumental reflections that take over side two", but didn't find that it "diminishes side one's oblique, charming tour of the popular rhythms of the day".[28] In 1979, Before and After Science was voted 12th best album of the year on the Village Voice's Pazz & Jop critics poll for 1978.[38]

Modern reviews of Before and After Science have also been positive. David Ross Smith of AllMusic awarded the album the highest rating of five stars stating that it ranks alongside Here Come the Warm Jets and Another Green World "as the most essential Eno material".[8] The music webzine Tiny Mix Tapes awarded the album their highest rating, stating that it "is not only one of the best albums in Eno's catalog, but of the 1970s as a whole".[39] Douglas Wolk of the webzine Pitchfork Media gave Before and After Science a perfect rating, calling the album "the most conceptually elegant of Eno’s ’70s song-albums".[40] Pitchfork placed Before and After Science at number 100 on their list of "Top 100 Albums of the 1970s", referring to it as a "lovely, charming album" and going on to state that, while "not formally groundbreaking, it's frequently overlooked when discussing great albums from an era that's romanticized as placing premiums on progression and innovation—and particularly in the context of Eno's career, which is so full of both".[41]

Track listingEdit

All tracks are written by Brian Eno, except where noted[1][42].

Side one
1."No One Receiving"3:52
3."Kurt's Rejoinder"2:55
4."Energy Fools the Magician" (arranged by Percy Jones, Eno)2:04
5."King's Lead Hat"3:56
Side two
1."Here He Comes"5:38
2."Julie With ..."6:19
3."By This River" (Eno, Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Dieter Moebius)3:03
4."Through Hollow Lands" (for Harold Budd) (arranged by Fred Frith, Eno)3:56
5."Spider and I"4:10




  • Peter Schmidt – art prints
  • Rhett Davies – producer, audio engineer
  • Ritva Saarikko – cover photograph
  • Brian Eno – cover design, producer
  • Conny Plank – engineer
  • Dave Hutchins – engineer
  • Cream – cover artwork

Chart positionsEdit

Chart (1978) Peak
New Zealand Albums Chart[43] 18
Swedish Albums Chart[44] 25


  1. ^ a b c d e Before and After Science (Vinyl back cover). Brian Eno. Island. 1977. ILPS-9478.CS1 maint: others (link)
  2. ^ a b Seabrook 2008, p. 160.
  3. ^ Pickard, Joshua (10 October 2015). "Record Bin: The experimental pop lucidity of Brian Eno's "Before and After Science"". Retrieved 1 June 2016.
  4. ^ a b Simonian, Tatiana (16 December 2004). "Lit Up and Emotional: Enorchestra". LA Weekly. Archived from the original on 17 September 2009. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  5. ^ O'Brien, Glenn (22 November 2016). "New Again: Brian Eno". Interview Magazine.
  6. ^ a b c d Tamm 1989, p. 107.
  7. ^ a b Jónsson, Darryl (January 2007). "Interview with Fred Frith". Music on Film / Film on Music. Archived from the original on 14 December 2007. Retrieved 16 July 2009.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Ross Smith, David. "Before and After Science – Brian Eno". AllMusic. Retrieved 29 May 2009.
  9. ^ Waynick, Michael. "Cluster & Eno – Cluster / Brian Eno". AllMusic. Retrieved 31 May 2009.
  10. ^ True, Christopher M. "Andy Fraser overview at Allmusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 31 May 2009.
  11. ^ McDonald, Steven. "Dave Mattacks overview at Allmusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 31 May 2009.
  12. ^ Mills, Ted. "Quiet Sun overview at Allmusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 31 May 2009.
  13. ^ Stuart Maconie (1 February 2003). A Quantity of Stuff – The Brian Eno Story. BBC Radio 2.
  14. ^ a b c d Bangs, Lester (4 March 1978). "Eno Sings With the Fishes". Village Voice: 49.
  15. ^ DeRogatis 2003, p. 245.
  16. ^ a b DeRogatis 2003, p. 246.
  17. ^ Gittins 2004, p. 36.
  18. ^ "More Songs About Buildings and Food album credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 31 May 2009.
  19. ^ a b Reynolds 1996, p. 203.
  20. ^ a b Carson, Tom (18 May 1978). "Before and After Science album review". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 19 June 2009. Retrieved 29 May 2009.
  21. ^ a b c "Peter Scmidth Web". Peter Schmidt Web. Archived from the original on 19 June 2009. Retrieved 31 May 2009.
  22. ^ a b c Strong 1998, p. 245.
  23. ^ a b "Brian Eno > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums". Allmusic. Retrieved 29 May 2009.
  24. ^ a b Warwick 2004, p. 379.
  25. ^ "The Musical Life of Brian! : News :". NME. Archived from the original on 17 May 2009. Retrieved 30 May 2009.
  26. ^ Davidson, John (29 July 2004). "Brian Eno: Before and After Science [reissue] – PopMatters Music Review". Popmatters. Archived from the original on 20 June 2009. Retrieved 30 May 2009.
  27. ^ Wolk, Douglas (2004). "Brian Eno: (various reissues)". Blender. Archived from the original on 6 August 2004. Retrieved 21 December 2014.
  28. ^ a b Christgau 1990, p. 127.
  29. ^ Brunner, Rob (4 June 2004). "Here Come the Warm Jets, Taking Tiger Mountain (by Strategy), Another Green World, Before and After Science". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 24 August 2016.
  30. ^ Buckley, David (June 2004). "Brian Eno: Here Come the Warm Jets / Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) / Another Green World / Before and After Science". Mojo (127): 123.
  31. ^ Reid, Graham (18 June 2004). "Brian Eno". The New Zealand Herald. Auckland. Retrieved 3 February 2018.
  32. ^ Wolk, Douglas (3 August 2017). "Brian Eno: Here Come the Warm Jets / Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) / Before and After Science". Pitchfork. Retrieved 3 August 2017.
  33. ^ Considine, J. D. (2004). "Brian Eno". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 278–279. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. Retrieved 30 April 2011.
  34. ^ Weisbard & Marks 1995, p. 129.
  35. ^ "Records: Before and After Science". Creem (9): 67. April 1978.
  36. ^ "Brave New Eno: Before and After Science". Crawdaddy! (84): 64. May 1978. Brian Eno is an agent from some other time and some other place who seems to know something that we don't but should...I can't remember the last time a record took such a hold of me—and gave such an extreme case of vertigo, too.)
  37. ^ "Record Reviews: Before and After Science". Down Beat (45): 36. 13 July 1978. What a wonderland of a zoo, a cross between steaming smoke, atonal mystery and hanging, frothy ditties...This is another typically awesome, stunning, numbing Brian Eno album—the record Pink Floyd could make if they set their collective mind to it.)
  38. ^ "The 1978 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll". Village Voice. Archived from the original on 19 June 2009. Retrieved 31 May 2009.
  39. ^ "Brian Eno – Before and After Science – Delorian Reviews – Tiny Mix Tapes". Tiny Mix Tapes. Archived from the original on 20 June 2009. Retrieved 31 May 2009.
  40. ^ Wolk, Douglas (3 August 2017). "Brian Eno:Before and After Science". Pitchfork. Retrieved 3 August 2017.
  41. ^ "Pitchfork: Top 100 Albums of the 1970s". Pitchfork Media. 23 June 2004. Archived from the original on 31 May 2009. Retrieved 31 May 2009.
  42. ^ "allmusic: Before and After Science: Ten Pictures". Allmusic. Retrieved 30 July 2010.
  43. ^ " – Brian Eno – Before and After Science". Recording Industry Association of New Zealand. Retrieved 8 July 2010.
  44. ^ " – Brian Eno – Before and After Science". Sverigetopplistan. Archived from the original on 24 October 2012. Retrieved 8 July 2010.


External linksEdit