Much has been said about Cale's 80s work, with 1982's bleak "Music for a New Society" in particular held up as his best album. Listening to "Artificial Intelligence", it's easy to see that this was a fruitful period, as some of Cale's best work is on this album. Rock journalist Larry Sloman's oblique lyrics are perfectly suited to Cale's snarling, punky vocal delivery, the closest he has come to capturing on record the feel of his deranged live shows (I had the privelege of seeing the man live recently and I can say that the first time you hear John Cale scream at the top of his lungs, it is really something).
The thing that makes this a good album rather than a great one is, ironically, that it was made in the mid-80s. Cale, like many ageing artists of the time, seems to have got all excited about MIDI technology and so the whole album is dominated by annoyingly dated keyboards. Compared to his recent albums, where new ProTools technology is used as a vehicle for good songwriting and not the other way around, the album seems gimmicky.
This is a shame, as there are a lot of good songs to enjoy here, in particular "Dying on the Vine" (check out Cale's solo piano arrangement on Fragments of a Rainy season for proof of its emotional impact), "Everytime the Dogs Bark" and "Satellite Walk".
If there's one song worth getting the album for, however, it's "Chinese Takeaway". A disturbing Muzak nightmare, it sounds like Lee Perry losing his mind in a dark room full of Casios. In retrospect, it almost seems like a satire on how horrifically barren the 80s were for many great artists. Luckily for us, the 90s were on their way...