Elsewhere by Graham Reid

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Wide angle reviews, interviews and opinion by writer Graham Reid

John Cale: Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood (Domino)

John Cale: Mothra
John Cale: Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood (Domino)

Although Lou Reed embodies the spiritual core of Velvet Underground, in the fortysomething years since John Cale quit he has made the more interesting music.

From venomous and gristly rock (Guts, Sabotage/Live) through instrumental music and affecting spoken word (his adaptation of fellow Welshman Dylan Thomas' poems), Cale has never been predictable. On his last outing blackAcetate he enthusiastically embraced hip-hop beats.

He's also been an important producer (Patti Smith, Modern Lovers, the Stooges, Happy Mondays among them) so it's no surprise that for this album he does his own drum programmes alongside playing piano, guitar and electric violas, and has Danger Mouse on the enticing opener I Wanna Talk 2 U.

At first blush this collection seems rather straight-ahead because, the clattering programming and sonic swoops aside, these are taut and cohesive songs which err towards stuttering rock or his piano-framed ballads.

But that daring spirit becomes increasingly evident in edgy and sometimes menacing production on Face to the Sky and the title track where rock guitars and hip-hop beats collide around his disconcerting and gravitas-filled vocals, and strange voices behind the latter which wobbles on liquid beats and stabbing funk guitar).

Later he toys with Autotune (December Rains where “soft porn rioting in now on-line” and the floor-shuddering Mothra), ethno-forgery (the distorted Vampire Cafe) and songs which almost sound in danger of being washed away by haunting effects.

Cale is a rare one and although you need to decode his lyrics (think politics and dissent and the recent London riots, it helps) he again punches his way out of whatever box you might have had him in.

John Cale is interviewed about this album and his working practices here. Like the sound of this? Then check out this.

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Tags: best of elsewhere 2012