Friday, August 31, 2007


blackAcetate is an album of funny contrasts. After the ethereal "Gravel Drive," Cale tosses in one of the album's most rudimentary garage rock tracks, "Perfect." That's not meant as insult, but it is strange. There's nothing dangerous about this music: the underlying song is a poppy little confection about compulsive love of one form or another, the rocking is restricted and somewhat ironic, the drums don't do anything subversive. I think it's a shameless attempt at getting on the radio. There's nothing wrong with that. This one pops into my head more often than anything else on the album.

The real meat of the song lies outside the verses and chorus. The growl and stop-time delivery on the first bridge, "I've- been- wai- ting- for- the- mo- ment- uhhhh" works beautifully. The lyric on the second bridge is my favorite in the song, and the melody attached to it is really charming: "And I'm sitting next to you / in the corner of the room / getting writer's block from calling you / is all I wanna do." And on the third bridge, martially rigid in its chant of "It's a different kind of love," Cale vocals overlap and rise above you like a vaulted ceiling. Finally, the coda, repeating the same lyric in a completely different way, wholehearted and enthusiastic: "It's! A! Diff! Rent! Kind! Of! Love!" The song is bursting with odd little bits of melody - the subversion is in the song's construction, rather than the performance. Well played, Mr. Cale.

Though a few of lines give it body, Perfect is in the end a slight song lyrically. About some kinda love in old age. There's not that much emotional heft to it: the verse lyrics are so generic and interchangeable our man seemed to be rewriting them on the spot when he performed the song on Jools Holland. But the video, allegedly the first released promo clip in John Cale's career, effectively shows the darkness latent in the song's premise. I feel that the song's only half-complete without the death-and-decay-obsessed video, described here as "disturbing, like pre-Eraserhead David Lynch." Watch it if you can. (Sorry, it's in RealMedia. I'm working on getting it converted so I can put it on YouTube. Any suggestions?)

Anyway, the video made me think that the song was about procreation: about seeing your children grow up and have children of their own. It is a different kind of love! The song lacks the edge of eros; it feels paternal and proud rather than seductive. I hear it addressed to a young granddaughter. Odds are that interpretation is way wrong (the more conventional reading fits better with the general theme of the album) but I like it dammit and I'm sticking with it.

1 comment:

Jack Feerick said...

I hear a lot of Iggy Pop in "Perfect," not just in the sound but in the attitude. This to me sounds like Cale just rockin' out, having fun—it's perhaps the most unreservedly quote-unquote "rocking" song in his catalog.

Or perhaps the quote marks shouldn't be there. I mean, for forty years that's been how Cale usually approaches the act of rocking—with quotes around it, through a prism of formalism or provocation, certainly as a second language. On "Perfect," I hear the quote marks come off. So to speak.