Friday, September 7, 2007

Experiment Number 1

Number 1? Don't be so modest, John. We've heard your previous albums, after all, and this is somewhere in the mid-20s. "Experiment Number 1" is experimental in the sense that it is a chord-changes-and-all studio rehearsal: improvised lyrics, improvised guitar, improvised piano ending, and, no ending coming to the players' minds, a clumsy fadeout.

It starts off with doomy, New Society-type piano, but - "Turn the guitar up." - some tasty guitar comes in quickly, and Honi Soit-style vocals start. It's a very slow song. "Come on, piano." The feeling is awfully close to Pink Floyd (1987) Ltd.'s "Sorrow." Cale doesn't really seem to know what the verse is - "G minor." - and what the chorus is. Or what the bridge is. "C." It really falls apart towards the middle, as Cale's lyric ideas run out and he has to call out - "B flat." - chord changes every few words. "Do it again." It's really the apotheosis of his approach to in-studio composition: the worst flaws of that method are made central to the song and, rather than work out the kinks and work out sensible lyrics, he leaves all of his ideas in in their initial form. "G minor. C'mon Dave. It's got a pretty good feel, just do a solo."

Which isn't to say it's unpleasant listening. The piano is miked well for once, the guitar tone (Dave Gilmour similarities aside) is delicious, and the drums are satisfying if unoriginal. The vocals are even OK despite - and I'm basing this on the slurring of words here and there - the rather intoxicated state of our man. In fact, it's the quality of the sound here that makes this track so frustrating. With a real set of lyrics and a few more run-throughs, this would have been a great song. As it is, it's just a very interesting outtake that made it onto an album.

And, even for Cale, it's a strange track to release on an album - but a stranger track to put in the second slot of Caribbean Sunset, an album that was intended to be commercially viable. But then we've talked about Mr. Cale's strange ideas on what's "commercial." I wonder if this track isn't a major reason that the CD release of Caribbean Sunset was abruptly scrapped back in 2001.

P.S. This song contains a strong contender for Cale's worst single line. "Christmas comes like breakfast once a year"?! Ferchrissakes, couldn't he have overdubbed that?

1 comment:

Mark said...

An old Cale fan, if I had to pick one favourite song of his, I think this would be it. It's so dense with that Cale-ian feeling of despair and holding on.
Just found your blog today, thank you for sharing all thoughts and links with the rest of us.