Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Crazy Egypt

Did you know that David Byrne collaborated with John Cale? No? Well, "collaborated" might be a little strong. He played Adrian Belew-esque background guitar noise on "Crazy Egypt," the clean-up track on 1996's Walking on Locusts. He's given a writing credit, but I'm not sure why he would want it.

Walking on Locusts is by far my least favorite Cale album. I'll explore more of the reasons for this later, but this track displays many of the problems the rest of the album has. There's the stagey speak-sung vocal - Cale said that he didn't feel the need to go over the top on this album, but he does go over the top, just in a different way. The result is a sort of Broadway musical feeling. Ugh. The tune wouldn't be so bad if it were sung (parts were recycled for HoboSapiens's Things and Twilight Zone), but it just kind of lies there.

There's the curiously static, artificial-feeling backing track. Byrne's guitar work is great. There's nothing wrong with the rhythm guitar or the drums. Yet I just don't feel it. It feels both constructed and sloppy at the same time.

The lyrics aren't bad, really. They're written in the style of Warren Zevon: "Me, I'm walking out of here, emptying the till / I'm calling up your lawyers and giving you the bill." They seem to describe a divorce in progress, but then again maybe it's about geopolitics ("You buy me the election, I'll sell you Japan"). Whatever the case, they deserve a better song than this. The faux New Orleans theme of the album is pretty effective here, even if it relies on cartoonish clichés to set the scene ("Rolling through the Mardi Gras, madman on the loose").

The most egregious thing here is the woo-woo girls. After many of the ... choruses?, they scream out "Crazy!!" in the sort of voice that you usually hear from Rob Zombie's guitar. It's an interesting idea, I'll grant, but in practice it's silly rather than effective.

(N.B. this is one of my better-liked songs from Walking on Locusts.)

9 comments:

Jack Feerick said...

Oof. And here I thought it was one of the weaker tracks. I await your evisceration of the rest of Walking On Locusts; expect me to disagree loudly in places. No, I didn't think it was a great record overall, but I thought it had a few great songs and a consistent aesthetic.

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