Monday, December 3, 2007


Another song that explores people as places as people, "Adelaide" ain't a patch on Andalucia. John Cale's game on Vintage Violence being exploring pop forms - he cites the Bee Gees, an underrated group of pop songwriters before disco madness infected them, as an influence - he goes whole hog on Adelaide as on Cleo, making cutesy uptempo pop songs that annoy the living piss out of me.

The choice of city may be homage to the brothers Gibb, but it's not a convincing lyric. Not an awful one - "don't want to be late/it's probably night in Adelaide" is an amusing little line working against the premise, and I really like the bit that goes "so pass me the phone/I go it alone/I whistle my way to Adelaide." But there's no sense of a real connection, and no detail to give character to the thing - just vagueness and cliche.

The structure isn't bad, I admit, with verse/alt verse/bridge construction and a cool little coda.

It's the melody, the instrumental, and the vocals that offend. Cale has turned on the charm, and it's so contrived and facile that... eh! The slightly off-key doo-wop parody backing vocals ("oooh nooo") are particularly galling. The piano figure is a hyperactive one without soul or interest. (I do like the harmonica, even if the whole thing ends up sounding like the Sesame Street theme song.) The flaws of this don't transfer at all to Macbeth (a pretty obvious rewrite), but then the strong points of that don't manifest themselves here.

It's not subversive or mocking, just imitative and seemingly in bad faith. Nothing else is really worth commenting on, is it? Well, just this: it's funny that I've complained about how samey Vintage Violence sounds, and yet it's the two songs furthest afield that I actively dislike.

Of course, the way these things always work, this song often pops into my head unbidden at inopportune times. Listening to it repeatedly while writing this post has guaranteed months more of it. Dammit.


Inverarity said...

The chorus is sounding awfully like the "Andy Griffith Show" theme to me now. Oi.

Scan Hopper said...

Awww, come on now. How can this ridiculously stupid and catchy song not put a smile on your face?

Question: Could that possibly be a young Billy Joel singing at the end? To me, it sounds EXACTLY like him. Wasn't he an up-and-coming rock musician in the NY/NJ area round that time?

I must find out!