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John Cale is not psychic! (Unless he is.) The man couldn’t have predicted Steve Albini’s second-motioning those mundane haters of Cher’s “Believe”; but he intuited that tipping point where the hip(sters) went (reflexively) bleech at the teeniest squirkle of Auto-Tune. “Surprise!” sayeth our fellow in deed if not in word, “I slathered that glorious Cher shit over half this one, and whadda ya think a’them apples, you pipsqueak pundit-come-lately?”

John Cale is the punk godfather! (Actually, at age 70, “grandfather” might scan for a substitution.) Mortality-aware but still cranky, he doesn’t want an audience now so much as a dialogue. The Danger Mouse–cohorted lead track comes off stiff, but the man sure wants to talk to somebody. That Auto-Tune puts his voice in two places almost at once, nifty symbolism for the sender and the receiver, the hope and the doubt. “Mary”’s finely detailed desperation rises until desire for someone, anyone, floods out the servile contempt for the protagonist’s own identity. “Mothra” opens a channel to an entity not speaking back, at least not in English. Senseless? No, sensibility.

John Cale remains elegiac! (Whew.) He ended 1979’s Sabotage/Live with “Chorale,” one prickly angry protest against death in which nothing resolved and little made sense, since death does not answer to sense, or even resolution. Thirty-three years later, “Sandman (Flying Dutchman)” soothes, comforts, relaxes even. The deceased is gone away, sailing...but what’s this about the Flying Dutchman? Condemned to rove, ever restless? Shuttled to subtext, this time, the irresolution. That’s called mellowing with age.

  • Album: Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood
  • Artist: John Cale
  • Label: Domino
  • Songs: (1) I Wanna Talk 2 U (2) Scotland Yard (3) Hemingway (4) Face To The Sky (5) Nookie Wood (6) December Rain (7) Mary (8) Vampire Café (9) Mothra (10) Living With You (11) Midnight Feast (12) Sandman (Flying Dutchman)
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