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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 Brian Eno
Released December 1977 (1977-12)[1]
Recorded Basing St Studios, London
Conny's Studio, Cologne[2]
Genre Art rock, ambient
Length 39:30
Label Polydor
Producer Brian Eno, Rhett Davies
Brian Eno chronology
Cluster & Eno
Before and after Science
Music for Airports
Singles from Before and after Science
  1. "King's Lead Hat"
    Released: January 1978[1]

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. Unlike Eno's previous albums which were written and recorded quickly, the album took over two years to complete. Several 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 the later tracks which are more languid and pastoral.

The album marks Eno's last foray into rock music for the 1970s as a solo artist, with all his remaining albums of the decade 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" was remixed and released as a single although it didn't chart in the United Kingdom. Both initial and more recent critical response to the album was 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.[3] During this two year period, Eno was busy working on his solo ambient music albums Music for Films and Discreet Music.[3] Due to the very positive critical reception to his previous rock music-oriented album Another Green World, Eno was afraid of repeating himself but still wanted to release a high quality product.[3]

Like his previous rock-based recordings, Eno used a plethora of guest musicians on Before and after Science. 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.[4] Eno asked Frith to record with him, and this resulted in Frith playing guitar on the album.[4] 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".[2][5] Eno had previously worked with Cluster on their album Cluster & Eno released in 1977.[6] 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".[2][7][7]

Eno also had several musicians who he had worked with on previous solo albums return. Percy Jones and Phil Collins of Brand X who had been on Eno's two previous rock albums played bass and drums respectively.[5] Other contributors included Paul Rudolph of Hawkwind and Bill McCormick and Phil Manzanera of Quiet Sun.[8] 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.[9] 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.[2][3][10]


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"[11] 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".[5] The album's opening tracks "No One Receiving" and "Backwater" start the album as upbeat and bouncy songs.[5] Rock critic Lester Bangs described the song "King's Lead Hat" as a track that emphasizes "Eno's affinities with New Wave in its rushed mechanical rhythms".[10] The song's title is an anagram of Talking Heads, a New Wave group. Eno had met the group after a concert in England when the Talking Heads were touring with The Ramones.[12][13] Eno would later produce the Talking Heads' second album More Songs About Buildings and Food.[14] The last five songs of the album have been described as having "an occasional pastoral quality" and being "pensive and atmospheric".[5]

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".[10] References to water in the lyrics appear in songs such as "Backwater", "Julie With..." and "By this River".[15] 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.[15] Eno's songwriting style was described as "a sound-over-sense approach".[5] Influenced by poet Kurt Schwitters, Eno consciously did not make songwriting or lyrics the main focus in the music.[5] Tom Carson of Rolling Stone noted this style, stating that the lyrics are "only complementary variables" to the music on the album.[16] 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".[10] Schwitters' influence is also shown on the song "Kurt's Rejoinder," on which samples of Schwitters' poem "Ursonate" can be heard.[5][12]


an illustration of an empty room featuring two floors connected by a carpeted stair way.
Peter Schmidt's "Four Years" was one of four prints included in the original pressings of the album.[17]

Before and After Science was released on December 1977 on Polydor in the United Kingdom and Island in the United States.[1] The first pressings of the album included four offset prints by Peter Schmidt.[17] 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".[17] 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.[18][19] "King's Lead Hat" was released as a single on January 1978 featuring the b-side "R.A.F." which is credited to "Eno & Snatch".[1] This single failed to chart in either the United Kingdom or the United States.[19][18]

Before and after Science was re-issued on compact disc through E.G. Records in January 1987.[1] In 2004, Virgin Records began reissuing Eno's albums in batches of four to five.[20] 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.[21]


 Professional ratings
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars[5]
Blender 5/5 stars[22]
Robert Christgau (A-)[23]
Crawdaddy! (favorable)[24]
Down Beat (favorable)[25]
Pitchfork Media (7.7/10)[26]
PopMatters (favorable)[21]
Rolling Stone (favorable)[16]
Spin (9/10)[27]
Stylus Magazine (favorable)[28]

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".[29] 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 me—and gave me such an extreme case of vertigo, too".[24] 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."[25] 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."[16] 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".[23] In 1979, Before and after Science was voted one of the best albums of the year in the Village Voice's Pazz & Jop critics poll for 1978.[30]

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".[5] 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."[31] The webzine Pitchfork gave Before and After Science a positive, but less enthusiastic, review calling the album a "neutered star in search of fuel, boasting only "King's Lead Hat" for the pop world, and the luminous pure prog-jazz of "Energy Fools the Magician" for the out-rock contingent".[26] Ten days later Pitchfork placed Before and After Science at number one-hundred 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".[32]

Track listing

All songs written and composed by Brian Eno, except where noted[2]

Side one
# Title Arrangement Length
1. "No One Receiving"     3:51
2. "Backwater"     3:43
3. "Kurt's Rejoinder"     2:53
4. "Energy Fools the Magician"   Percy Jones, Brian Eno 2:05
5. "King's Lead Hat"     3:53
Side two
# Title Writer(s) Arrangement Length
1. "Here He Comes"       5:40
2. "Julie With ..."       6:20
3. "By This River"   Eno, Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Dieter Moebius   3:03
4. "Through Hollow Lands" (For Harold Budd)   Fred Frith, Eno 3:03
5. "Spider and I"       4:08




  • 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


  1. ^ a b c d e Strong, 1998. p.245
  2. ^ a b c d e (1977) Album notes for Before and after Science by Brian Eno [Vinyl back cover]. Island (ILPS-9478).
  3. ^ a b c d Tamm, 1989. p.107
  4. ^ a b Jónsson, Darryl (January 2007). "Interview with Fred Frith". Music on Film / Film on Music. Archived from the original on 21 January 2008. Retrieved 16 July 2009.  
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Ross Smith, David. "Before and after Science album review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-05-29.  
  6. ^ Waynick, Michael. "Cluster & Eno album review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-05-31.  
  7. ^ a b True, Christopher M.. "Andy Fraser overview at Allmusic". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-05-31.  
  8. ^ Mills, Ted. "Quiet Sun overview at Allmusic". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-05-31.  
  9. ^ A Quantity Of Stuff - The Brian Eno Story. Stuart Maconie. BBC Radio 2. 2003-02-01.
  10. ^ a b c d Bangs, Lester (4 March 1978). "Eno Sings With the Fishes". Village Voice: 49.  
  11. ^ DeRogatis, 2003. p.245
  12. ^ a b DeRogatis, 2003. p.246
  13. ^ Gittins, 2004. p.36
  14. ^ "More Songs About Buildings and Food album credits". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-05-31.  
  15. ^ a b Reynolds, 1996. p.203
  16. ^ a b c Carson, Tom (May 18, 1978). "Before and after Science album review". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2009-05-29.  
  17. ^ a b c "Peter Scmidth Web". Peter Schmidt Web. Retrieved 2009-05-31.  
  18. ^ a b "Brian Eno > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-05-29.  
  19. ^ a b Warwick, 2004. p.379
  20. ^ "The Musical Life of Brian! : News :". NME. Retrieved 2009-05-30.  
  21. ^ a b Davidson, John (July 29, 2004). "Brian Eno: Before and After Science [reissue - PopMatters Music Review"]. Popmatters. Retrieved 2009-05-30.  
  22. ^ Wolk, Douglas (2004). "Blender: Brian Eno (various reissues)". Blender. Archived from the original on 12 August 2009.  
  23. ^ a b Christgau, 1990. p.127
  24. ^ a b "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.)".  
  25. ^ a b "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.)".  
  26. ^ a b "Pitchfork: Brian Eno: Here Come the Warm Jets / Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) / Another Green World / Before and After Science". Pitchfork Media. June 13, 2004. Retrieved 2009-05-31.  
  27. ^ Weisbard & Marks, 1995. p.129
  28. ^ "Stranded: Before and After Science - Article - Stylus Magazine". Stylus Magazine. Retrieved 12 June 2009.  
  29. ^ "Records:Before and After Science". Creem (9): 67. April 1978.  
  30. ^ "The 1978 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll". Village Voice. Retrieved 2009-05-31.  
  31. ^ "Brian Eno - Before and after Science - Delorian Reviews - Tiny Mix Tapes". Tiny Mix Tapes.,5982. Retrieved 2009-05-31.  
  32. ^ "Pitchfork: Top 100 Albums of the 1970s". Pitchfork Media. June 23, 2004. Retrieved 2009-05-31.  


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