Friday, August 10, 2007

Spinning Away

To be honest, I don't really think Cale had much to do with "Spinning Away", a beautiful little song from Wrong Way Up. It's a song about sketching under a dark night sky: feeling the earth turn, watching the dome of the sky move. It's just a moment in time, but it conveys the feeling terribly well. It has Eno all over it.

So why discuss it, given that I said I was only doing the obvious "John Cale" songs from collaborative albums? Well, it illustrates a certain lack in Cale's own oeuvre. Cale's songs are always about people. There are a few minor exceptions: "Big White Cloud," a cute little Vintage Violence track (but that sounds more like an LSD trip log), "Lie Still , Sleep Becalmed" (the vastness and scale is right, but the words aren't his). In general, though, if nature or the universe at large intrudes upon a song, as in "Barracuda", it's only as a tableau to put actors in front of.

Cale isn't interested in engaging with the non-human world on a personal level; for all that he illustrates the defects of human relationships, he never really goes beyond them. Which is fine, as there are lots of awful "awestruck" songs about the world, and anything that prevents atrocities like "Be the Rain" is alright by me. But in a forty-year songwriting career that has covered many recherché topics and many genres, the absence seems a little strange.

Advertisement! The peak of the Perseid meteor shower is this weekend. If you're in the northern hemisphere and can escape light pollution, consider heading somewhere dark and looking up. Brian Eno would want you to.

1 comment:

Mark of the Asphodel said...

Good insight on Cale's limited scope. For all the musical diversity in his catalogue, topically he really does have a niche that he sticks with. I can't complain, given what a memorable sketch artist he is when it comes to humans. And, as you indicated, Cale hasn't ever inflicted a "Belief in Something Bigger," or "The Tide Is Turning (After Live Aid)" on us. He makes his pen-and-ink doodles of strange faces, and leaves the propaganda murals to others.