John Cale - Hobasapiens
For once the accolade living legend is truly deserving for a man who has contributed to the world-wide success of The Velvet Underground, produced for The Stooges, Nico and Patti Smith and collaborated with Brian Eno and Lou Reed. Last year the 61 year old Welsh man performed a headlining slot at Glastonbury and as a solo artist has released 16 solo albums. Renaissance man John Cale inspired by the works of Beck and The Beta Band recorded "Hobasapiens", his first full length album of songs in seven years. Was it worth the wait? You betcha!
"Zen" is a multi layered, modern and idiosyncratic journey into a musical environment with uninhibited flourishes and elaborate touches. At times ambient, yet with the addition of a rum machine, dropping in the bass and Cale's vocal grabbing you instantly with it's authority, you can expect the unexpected. Best described as eletrodrama, the bizarre but always interesting lyrics manage to take in the complexity of algebra and needs a few listens to take in it's infinite majesty. With more traditional drums, bass and viola with superb slabs of synthesizers "Look Horizon" evokes a seriously unsettling mood. It's executed in a kind of loose free form arrangement. Featuring a Duanne Eddy type guitar solo and and is cutting edge. Lyrically it raises questions about self discovery, wisdom, wonder and as it's line "I feel like someone's watching" probably paranoia.
"Caravan" is almost operatic in it's scope and ambition. It wittily slips in the Norfolk Broads and Samuel Beckett into the complex narrative. "I'm slipping away from planet earth" he sings over an 80s synth backing and who are we to argue. It's a thin line between genius and insanity. "Letter From Abroad" has an endearing weird and wonderful instrument arrangement. The vocals become purposefully distorted and the mood is suitably chaotic. It shares the eccentricity of David Byrne's solo work and is a bona fide gem.
Those of you who thrive on the audacity, risk taking and cultural reference points this album offers will be filled with joy and satisfaction. In a music industry saturated with glorified karaoke singers, competition winners, talent show rejects and bland faceless boy bands we need truly inspiring mavericks like John Cale more than ever. Just don't take another seven years releasing your follow up. It's too long to wait.
Nicholas Paul Godkin
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