John Cale – Extra Playful

January 01, 1970

(Domino Records) 



John Cale has always appeared to live on a different plane
from the rest of us. Maybe just being raised in Wales sets him apart that much, I
don’t know. Perhaps it’s simply some special star quality he was born with that
sets him apart as an artist. His solo career, post-Velvet Underground, is a
catalog of vibrant, exemplary music, with a refined, elegant and almost majestic
touch to most of his compositions. Meanwhile, over the decades his slightly
more famous fellow punk godfather and VU partner-in-crime, Lou Reed, has been
reliably unreliable, running hot and cold about every other album. (Witness his
latest project,
LULU, teaming up with
Metallica, and not reaping very many positive reviews from critics, Lou fans
and especially Metallica fans. I’ve long since learned to listen, before I buy,
any new Lou project.) Cale, on Extra
, his first album in 6 years since the outstanding Black Acetate, hits more “right notes”
at the age of 70, than most rockers a third his age can manage. He still has
plenty to communicate, his music not losing any creative potency over the


It’s something of a head-scratcher that a musical legend
like John Cale would expend the energy to release a simple 5-song EP. Had he
recently written a couple great numbers and then tossed in a couple of
leftovers that had been lying around to fill it out? Not enough for a whole
album, just something to throw out here? (He will release a full-length album on Domino next year, by the way.)
There certainly are a couple of very strong songs on here, the main one being
“Whaddya Mean By That” from which a wispy and wistful video was filmed, that simply
features Cale, looking youthful and handsome in a purple suit, wandering in the
woods and thoughtfully through a heather-blanketed field. The tune does induce
a soul-searching moodiness and desired solitude. Then there’s “Say Ray,” and
odd, experimental, wince-inducing clunker of sorts. But, I deduce, holding it
up to Ian Dury’s “Reason’s To Be Cheerful, Pt. 3” and “Spasticus Autisticus,”
it’s simply just a side detour to get out and stretch his artistic musical
legs. Long-time followers of his music will immediately dig track one,
“Catastrofuk,” a chord-heavy cruncher with layers of fuzz and electric keyboard
backup. Think of “Perfect” from Black


 Cale chanter
en Française
on “Pile a L’heure” (right on time), a smoky, leisurely ballad
with multiple layers of studio embellishments and chorus, making for a rather
soporific experience. It immediately brought to mind the last Viva Voce album
due to the lush production. “Perfection” is another outstanding track to
behold. The song plods along with regular injections of loud guitar skronk,
melding with avant-garde electronica and mellotron-esque flourishes. One
suspects this EP is just a tasty appetizer for what’s to come next year, and
Cale buffs should not hesitate hitting the download button for the four
dazzling offerings contained herein, to sate themselves in the meantime.



        DOWNLOAD: “Catastrofuk,”
“Whaddya Mean By That,” “Perfection.” BARRY

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