To quote Pitchfork, “Brian Eno has done everything from producing huge pop stars to creating tiny art installations to touring with rock bands to inventing ambient music. Another Green World remains his definitive album.” Another Green World is one of the rare albums that forever changed music while still maintaining a low profile. It is crazy to think that it came out nearly 50 years ago; it still sounds cutting edge. And nowhere is this more evident than the remarkable, transcendental song entitled “The Big Ship.” It is a song that remained under the radar for many years, only to resurface a few decades later—having blossomed ever since then, with lots of brilliant intellectuals like David Foster Wallace calling it their favorite song and films like Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and The End of the Tour deploying it. After my extensive phase as a David Foster Wallace superfan (Infinite Jest is my favorite book ever)—and, during that time, this song changed my life.
I think DFW’s above quote (from his unreleased epic novel, The Pale King) captured the true essence of this song better than I ever could. “The Big Ship” is an enigma. It is nothing more than a 3-minute ambient song in which very little happens. And yet, every time I hear it, my life flashes before my eyes. It brings me to tears. It evokes memories of my youth that no other song can unlock. And there is also something so euphoric, so profound, about it. I can’t quite put my finger on it, though. And I think that it’s better that way, for some of the most beautiful things in this life are inexplicable, right? They fearlessly transcend our very parameters of thought.
Ultimately, I never know how to recommend this song to the people I care about. What I do know is that those who are passionate individuals tend to cling to it. They let “The Big Ship” into their minds, they let it settle in their conscience, and it will likely find their soul the way it found mine. I try to give you detailed appraisals in which I layer analysis with personal stuff. And yet, with “The Big Ship,” I don’t have anything analytical to say. It is all straight from the heart. My only general warning is to listen to this alone with nice headphones and a clear head, preferably late at night. If you’re thinking about anything else, it’s nothing more than background music. But if you listen with care, it might change your life too; you just have to catch it in a time when your brain can embrace the mentality needed to really feel this subtle yet endlessly brilliant moment in musical history.
P.S. Like most stuff I review, this music can’t be properly heard if you don’t approach it with a clear mind and some high-quality headphones!