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Another peak in a brilliant career...,
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This review is from: Hobosapiens (Audio CD)
John Cale has been involved with so many classic albums- whether as collaborator (White Light/White Heat, The Marble Index, Wrong Way Up, Last Day on Earth, Songs for Drella), producer (The Stooges, The Modern Lovers, Horses, Desertshore), or solo artist (Fear, Helen of Troy, Music for a New Society, Paris 1919).And this is forgetting his frequent film soundtrack work & appearances on tracks by artists such as Nick Drake & The Replacements! The ep 5 Tracks (also 2003) pointed to new era in Cale's brilliant career- whether prompted by a pilgramage to Wales (where he discovered many contemporary bands) or writing his autobiography (What's Welsh for Zen?...something has prompted Cale to release some of his best solo work to date. HoboSapiens (title alluding to an essay on Dylan) is one of those genius albums produced by an ageing artist, passing through middle age (Cale is actually in his 60s now!)- thus it ranks up there with such albums as Alice/Blood Money (Tom Waits), Time Out of Mind (Bob Dylan), The Future (Leonard Cohen),Heathen (David Bowie), Dead Bees on a Cake/Blemish (David Sylvian) & Climate of Hunter/Tilt/Pola X (Scott Walker)Nice to see a hidden bonus track (Set Me Free) at the beginning of the album- even nicer to see this album released by a major label...
Sonically this is very pleasing- the production is shared with one of the members of Lemon Jelly, so again, easily up there with contemporary releases like Heathen/Reality, the last two Flaming Lips albums, SFA etc. Cale sounds very NOW- which is why this is one of the greatest albums of this year, alongside Blemish and Speakerboxx/The Love Below.
Each track is brilliant, an extremely consistent album, highlights including instrumental Bicycle (featuring an Eno drum loop and Eno's daughters giggling!), the ominuous Caravan ("musn't be late"), the single Things (& alternate take Things X- both of which allude to the great, late Warren Zevon & his track Things to Do In Denver When You're Dead, reminding me of Bowie's Heathen- which alluded to George Harrison's All Things Must Pass)& the space-rock of Archimedes. Opening track Zen (following the hidden one) spills out Cale's dominating themes of art and zen, though continuuing the tract of Waiting for Blonde (which alluded to 9/11) and Sabotage's Mercenaries (Ready for War!), there are allusions to the current war in Iraq- both on the sleeve & poetically in the lyrics (which recall Walker's Tilt- a track like Patriot). The Look Horizon is pretty clear, "What a shame we carry on the residue of fools/Instead of better wisdom or advanced tools"; while Twilight Zone takes us into a pulsing electronic blend of hail, picthed between recent Cohen & recent Suicide: "obssession with detail precision with terms" recalling the language of the media war, of politicans weasling through language (Orwellian perversions) & reminds me a little of JG Ballard's book The Atrocity Exhibition (there's even a break with Cale chanting which recalls Fatima Mansions). Best of all is Letter from Abroad, my favourite track & one as ominious as earlier tracks such as Gun, Thoughtless Kind, Rose Garden Funeral of Sores, Leaving It Up to You, Guts etc It opens with a world-music style loop of an acoustic instrument, before a pulsing electronic shuffle comes in & then Cale slips into a megaphone voice: "Afghanistan, Afghanistan: whatever happened to you?...They're cuttting their heads off in the soccer field...Taking them out in the elephant grass feeding them to hyeanas...This is a letter from abroad: life is cheaper back home"- sonically it reminds me of 90s Fall (Free Range, The Chisellers), Eric B & Rakim (Casualties of War), Bowie (I'm Afraid of Americans, The Heart's Filthy Lesson) & Fatima Mansions (Lost in the Former West, Valhalla Avenue). Final track Over Her Head is another joy- a great conclusion to a great album- opening with a fading bell, as a piano ominously begins, with hints of swooping synthetic soundtrack, a divine ballad that recalls Wilderness Approaching- before shifting into a glam-like stomp at the end...
HoboSapiens is another peak in Cale's brilliant career and easily one of the highlights of 2003: a must purchase...