Thursday, December 28, 2006


I got out of work a bit early & had some time to kill before picking up the girlfriend, so I figured I'd go give the fine folks at Pure Pop a bit more of my hard-earned cash.

I've been on a big experimental music kick lately, so I went and browsed the "Avant-Garde/Experimental" section. I happened upon the John Cale albums and seeing as I'm a big VU fan and I love the "New York in the 60's" box set I picked up earlier this year, I was surprised that I'd never heard his first official solo release, "Vintage Violence".

I bought the album & popped it in my car CD player, waiting for the bipolar mix of abrasive screeching and bassy drones that were Cale's calling card during his late 60's/early 70's work.

Only a few seconds into the first track, I had to eject the CD and make sure it was the right disc. Yup, John Cale. I popped it back in. The first song, "Hello There" sounded like a Welshman doing a cover of a White Album outtake. The second song threw me off even more--what the hell is this country slide guitar doing on here?

I was thoroughly confused. Everybody knows Lou Reed is the Velvet who secretely just wanted to be a pop star. Cale is the genius madman, the king of dissonance. Sure he did that great cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" but still..what is he doing making an album that sounds like the love child of "Every Good Boy Deserves Favour" and "Tumbleweed Connection" ?

But the more I listened, the more I could appreciate it. The lyrics were cryptic and strange; the vocals were oddly detached and restrained. And if you listened carefully, you can hear some of the trademark Cale experimentation on songs like "Ghost Story" and "Please".

Some of my favorites from the album are the slower and more intimate songs, especially the beautiful "Amsterdam", but the raucous "Rolling Stones-without-the-drunken-machismo" track "Bring It On Up" is pretty good too (I would have loved to have heard The Band do a cover of this song, complete with a little Levon Helm yoddling!)

"Vintage Violence" was certainly not was I was expecting, but it was by no means an unpleasant surprise.

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