Saturday, July 28, 2007

Verses

Now this is a comeback. "Verses" kicks off the John Cale Is Back EP (er, that is, 5 Tracks). It's about one's responsibility to others, the ethic of reciprocity. I have the sense that it relates to his daughter Eden, who sings (beautiful) backing vocals on the track. Which doesn't really accord with the negative-sounding lyrics (which seem to reference a Nico voice sample from Ari Sleepy Too), but oh well. What a song says and what a song does don't always coincide.

The lyrics are imagistic, and very vivid - the last verse, "Coal smoke on the city / is from another age / The scribbling in your notebook / is soaking with rain," always gets to me, I'm not sure why. What I don't get is: what verses in the golden rule? Isn't it simply "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"? This strikes me as sloppy, and irritates me a bit on every listen. If you can justify this lyrics, please do - I'd like to listen to this without the niggling at the back of this editor's mind I have.

The song is heavily pro-tooled; I don't know what's live and what's Memorex. In any case, it's compositionally strong and has a great set of melodies - like most of the EP. The percussion sounds totally synthetic, and done with a very primitive sound generator at that. The song has three different "breaks", with Eden's vocals arching over interesting basslines and synth patterns - the first graceful, the second pensive and tense, the third mysterious and foggy. Bass is definitely the primary instrument here. Synth and keening guitars form a melody-free bed for the vocals, but the focus on the vocal is so dramatic here it's reminiscent of Cale's production of Nico's The Marble Index.

Of all Cale's post-millennium work, I think this EP is the most essential. The main strike against it is that it's several years out of print. At the time of writing, there are two new copies on eBay, in a card sleeve package I haven't seen before, for less than ten U.S. dollars. Maybe there's been a silent reissue? In any case, if you can pick this up for a reasonable price, I highly recommend it.

2 comments:

Hans said...

The card sleeve 5 tracks is a promo copy of the cdep.

Inverarity said...

I forgot to note that the verse melody of this is reused. The original appearance was in the coda of "Black Rose" on 1985's Artificial Intelligence.