Sunday, September 30, 2007

Secret Corrida

Why don't I tell you about a song from Walking on Locusts that I love, then. Something that isn't schmaltzy, or draggy, or overwrought. Something like "Secret Corrida." The title, punning gently on "secret corridor," works well as a preview of the grace and ambiguity the track brings to its difficult subject matter. It's a meditation on the slaughter in the Balkans, you see, but Mr. Cale intentionally obfuscated it.

Not that the horror is completely removed. Cale describes a bullfight (La Corrida) in endless repetition. It's curiously bereft of action, just a sequence of still scenes: on the empty street on the day of a bullfight, listening to the crowd cheer; blood on sawdust, the door slammed shut, the crowd hungry for excitement (that is, death). There's no ranting about Milosevic, just meditation on human bloodlust and the monsters within us. And... though I feel cheated, a bit, by the evasion, I appreciate what he's done here in creating a subtle nightmare.

The music is gauze: somnambulant guitar coats the back of the aural picture, Cale's electric piano plays hypnotically repetitious three-note sequences throughout, and the vocal is restrained and nearly affectless. There are Spanish-inflected runs in the piano here and there. Trumpet (excuse me, mutantrumpet), gentle and as woozy as that guitar, takes the lead between each vocal section, and it nearly stops my heart each time. The Moroccan percussion works well on this track, adding to the circular and "out of time" feel.

This is one of the few pieces on the album where Cale's "less drama is more" approach really bears fruit. It's music for insomniacs, perhaps, but not for those who'd like to go to sleep. I love the song as a taste of what could have been: an album of songs like this would occupy an honored place in his catalog.


Ian said...

Nice to have you back! I like the sound of this one.

Inverarity said...

Thanks! I'm trying a new tack: major tracks on Sunday, minor tracks when I have the chance on weekdays. I'm slacking off a bit to avoid burn-out. And also because things are a bit crazy, but so it goes.

Just got the soundtrack to Antartida, though, and it's extremely good, so I'll have to tackle something from that this week...

Ben said...

I always wondered what the meaning behind Secret Corrida was. The word "Corrida" has a double meaning (at least in Spain) and listening to the song over the years I thought he might have been using the more obscure meaning of corrida instead of the more obvious one. The album was written around the same time he was working with the Spanish director on Antarida and possibly he might have had some influence on the song.
Also, I know you are trying to be as critical as possible but Walking on Locusts is not as horrible as you have posted in the past. I find more consistent than say Black Acetate and it is a satisfying listen from time to time. Although the production is too slick and the vocals sometimes get hidden under the arrangements, (Dancing Undercover for example) it does work in the end. Songs like dancing undercover really come alive when performed live (FabChannel or a show I saw in 05 at the Middle East club in Cambridge MA), Some Friends, Set Me Free, Circus and Gatorville Points East all are great Cale songs hidden behind some very non-Cale production.

Inverarity said...

I like Dancing Undercover quite a bit, even if the lyrics are a little uncharacteristically sloppy. Circus and Gatorville and Points East are decent. So What I can tolerate.

Set Me Free turns into a good song, but the first verse is so goofy (and seemingly unintentionally so) that it's hard for me to listen to. After that it improves dramatically, but it's hard to ignore the first verse!

blackAcetate's a little lumpy, but I find the lyrics and performances better quality in general. Then again, Brotherman's a favorite of mine, so there you go.

I do appreciate the opposing viewpoints, though. Without them this wouldn't be a very interesting blog ;)

Moza said...

I think Locusts would be a far more enjoyable CD if someone locked all the backing singers in a room and threw away the key. In spite of them, Locusts is still growing on me. I guess not every album can sound like Fragments.

Jaime Palha said...

Supposedly Maureen Tucker plays drums in 'Dancing Undercover' and 'Set Me Free' but i barely listen to drums in 'Set Me Free'. Drums or percussion, whatsoever.