Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sold Motel

Into the West. The most recent of Cale's trail songs and gunfighter ballads, Sold Motel is also the most contemporary and the most surreal. It describes a land of motels, Tommy Hilfiger couture, "beach-blanket bourgeois sunning themselves." But the chorus clues us in:

"Send out the messenger, pick up the word
Wild Tchoupitoulas, have you heard?
Send out the messenger, pick up the word
General Custer, have you heard?"

Clues us into what, precisely, I'm not sure, but whether he's talking about Indians or the Neville Brothers in the chorus, the song feels of a piece with earlier Cale Westerns. It's a calculatedly Badass lyric, in the tradition of "Guts" and "Fear" and "Gun": "Down that way they see death everyday, in one form or another / They're no different from there to here, they've just learned how to handle the fear." It doesn't have the emotional heft of those songs, but it's a good lyric full of great sounds.

The song starts out with a rather stereotypical-sounding choppy garage-rock riff. ("Stereotypical garage rock" being one of the dominant sounds, but not the only one, of 2005's blackAcetate - one of the reason the album sounds so uneven.) But the sound gets weirder and weirder, with pitchshifted backing Cales all over the place - and then you hit the angelic choir and strings on the middle eight. Then a guitar solo that briefly turns into a trumpet solo (and back). Take that, Jack White. It's a great production job that survives the heavy sonic layering.

An all-time great song? No. The best on the album? Probably not, but a lot of fun. He performed an acoustic version at the Paradiso in Amsterdam back in 2004. Have a look.

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