No one doubts John Cale's status as a modern cultural icon. Similarly, no one doubts the man's integrity or skill in having produced such a vast array of music over his 30 year career. But it is precisely this versatility and willingness to experiment that has made Cale such a frustrating artist for CD buyers to gauge. From his avant-classical compositions, to film scores, to angry-young-man psuedo-punk rants to his highly melodic lyrical works, Cale often seems to be going in several directions at once, musically speaking, with the effect that even if one has enjoyed a previous Cale work, one hesitates to buy the next product from the fertile Cale music factory.
In Walking On Locusts, Cale returns to the lyrical, pop/rock ballad style of composition that graced 1974's 'Paris 1919' as well as the less 'edgy' numbers on 'Fear' plus much of his collaboration with Brian Eno on 'Wrong Way Up'.
First, Cale is a brilliant tunesmith when he wants to be. His sense of composition is second to none in the rock genre, his classical training and intellectual understanding of musical forms rising to the fore without any overstatement or pretension.It is this quality that makes 'Walking on Locusts' such a great listen. There is hardly a weak track in the set.'So Much For Love' recalls Paris 1919's 'Emily' with its powerful minimalist setting.'Set It Free' utilizes pedal steel with an emotional resonance unusual for that instrument. Such 'quiet' tracks are balanced by frantic numbers such as 'Crazy Egypt' where Cale utilizes his trademark 'speaktalk' style and the powerful gospel chorus of 'Tell Me Why'. Demonstrating his versatility, Cale brings complex but bewitching string playing into melodic tracks such as 'Circus' and intoxicating guitar work that recalls 'The Endless Plane of Fortune' from Paris 1919, in the opening moments of 'Secret Cordilla' perhaps the gem of this wonderful album.
If Cale can put out thoughtful, intricate and passionate work like this once every few years between his other projects, he will finally get the recognition he deserves as one of the finest songwriters of the modern era.
A superb CD, so far my favourite of the last few years and in my all-time top 5.