Tuesday, May 29, 2007


I was going to try to cover all of the studio albums before I started looking at any albums in more depth, but I've wanted to write about this, the most unfortunately overlooked song on Fear. The first of the "liebestod and water" scenes, Barracuda seems to be an account of dead bodies floating and bloating and being eaten in the aftermath of a flood. Though it ends with you (yes, you!) in a dark forest, with the moon, smiling at you, out of reach.

"Dark woman in the water drowning / sinking in a funny way" implies an agent: a barracuda would be the obvious guess. The witty lyrics don't really make linear sense, but there's a general sense of death and desolation and a lot of great (and I daresay funny) imagery - "dark woman like a crow a-crowing for the carrion meat", "ten morons with their whistles blowing", "mimicking our final days." Cale doesn't seem to mind the surroundings - the proto-chorus "the ocean will have us all" is sung matter-of-factly, with just a touch of pride and satisfaction. It's one of his greatest recorded moments.

Which reminds me. It's a formally non-standard song, something Cale was doing quite a bit in the Island Years, and not so much later. It's got two choruses, inserted at funny intervals. And the real chorus is a doozy, especially when you think you've heard the chorus! With a woo-woo girl, Cale speaks in the first person and invites the barracuda to lay down its life for him and to love him. I'm not sure what that's all about (fishing??), but the real effective bit is the last line, the sinister and gleefully delivered, "You always need to bring out the worst in me."

The rhythm track is irreverently funky, with the bass, rhythm guitar, and drums interacting like Shakespearean gravediggers. I think there's supposed to be a bit of an island feel to it. I like the nifty bubbling organ on the protochorus.

The descending viola riff that accompanies Cale's picturesque death scenes here is nothing short of spine-tingling, but it's nothing compared to the atonal (viola) shrieking that follows each chorus. There's no way for me to describe them, you just have to hear them. They're why this one caught my notice the first time I played the album - and why I can't stop listening to it.

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