Friday, May 11, 2007

Dead Or Alive

'Honi Soit,' Cale's tenth studio album, was a very strange album. Although there are signs that someone wanted commercial accessibility, "Dead Or Alive" and "Magic & Lies" chief among them, most of the album was nearly as far from accessible as possible. It's a very good album, hurt by the poorly miked drums and questionable and very heterogeneous mixes.

Of course, "Dead or Alive" is really only commercial by comparison to the rest of it. I think it's the story of a lover of the narrator who drifts from the party lifestyle to pornography to prostitution to death. Lyrically, it seems a reworking of the CGBG's-era song "Somebody Should Have Told Her," though they share virtually nothing musically. Both are full of frustration and regret, mixed with an element of "told you so." This one has the standout line, "She turns and smiles/says goodbye in her inimical way."

The song has one of the strangest guest instrumentals I can think of in the Cale ouevre: a trumpet plays baroque phrases over the intro and choruses. The guitar tone is great on this one. More stacatto guitar chords for the verses, merging into long, low growl on the verses. I'm not sure I like the piano: the live solo version I have (which I'll try to get an mp3 up for next week) has the same piano part and still feels dated. Anyway, underneath the mediocre and mushy arrangement there is a painful and fairly powerful song. That's the story of Honi Soit, really.

I should note that this album is in print in Great Britain via an on-demand service. That is, they burn you a CDR when you order it and print out cover art. It's better than nothing, I suppose.

6 comments:

Ono said...

Honi Soit is indeed a strange album. In fact, all Cale´s albums are strange. This is a great blog - interesting stuff!

lostinthewest said...

Have you any idea where I can get a copy of Caribbean Sunset on CD? I'm rebuilding my Cale collection but am stuck on this one...

Anonymous said...

You can't, unfortunately - it's never been issued on CD at all. I don't know if it's available on the file sharing networks, but I plan to rip my vinyl copy to disc soon.

Ashley Pomeroy said...

The trumpet kept reminding me of the Beatles, of Penny Lane etc; its incongruous, I suppose it contrasts with the bleak lyrics. The drums have some nice brrrrumps, but they sound like 80s-style drums, and that dates the song (and the rest of the album) to my ears, e.g. it sounds like Mike & The Mechanics or Foreigner.

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Anonymous said...

When Cale plaid with the Honi Soit band in the Lyceum on the Strand in '81 the riot fires in Brixton were still smouldering, in fact all over Britain.

This album caught the mood of the times more than any other.

The performance was so intense that you felt like the roof on the building was on fire. the final scream of Leaving it All Up to You still reverberates in my soul