Monday, January 28, 2008

Brotherman

I write reams of this shit every day.

Thanks, J. That makes my job easier. "Brotherman" is a track I possibly should be embarrassed about - does he think this is rap? But it's too weird to be purely midlife crisis genrehopping: it's a self-mocking rumination on the songwriting process. The narrator, John Cale or not, seems to be writing about a drug deal that might be a sting. But he's mocking himself the whole time, saying sardonically, "This is just part of the magic; I write reams of this shit every day." On the other hand, he's not above a little credit-taking: he's very proud that it may be shit, "but you're feeling it!" With the namechecking of Timbaland and the Neptunes he did at the time, one wonders if it's not some sort of semi-affectionate parody of the genre.

The monologue is delivered over a bed of mostly synthetic noise that's somewhere between an ersatz hip-hop track and one of Cale's atonal live eviscerations of some poor innocent song from his back catalog. Most notable is the interplay between the silly, buzzing "bass line" and intermittent electric guitar strums. It's... an acquired taste, but one I usually like enough to listen to. Without the wry vocal, though, I doubt I'd take the time.

However, it is a unique and fecund moment on blackAcetate (an album that admittedly does feel like midlife crisis genrehopping). It's a track that many critics reviled, a few like, and probably nobody but Cale really understands. I don't know if it's meant to be serious or a pisstake, but I think that ambiguity is the point. Very uncomfortable.

2 comments:

Jack Feerick said...

Uncomfortable, yeah. The rhymes are so half-assed and lazy that I can't help thinking it's a goof; but like much of BlackAcetate—"Mailman (The Lying Song)" being the most obvious example—he sets out to fuck with audience expectations in a malicious way. There are jokes aplenty, but the jokes (to borrow Malcolm McLaren's phrase) incriminate the audience.

From any other artist, it would come off as a fat, calculated "FUCK YOU" to the fans. For Cale fans, though, the perversity is part of the appeal. and he knows that. And knowing that, he plays with the notion.

It's the chuckle near the beginning that gets me. Malevolent, no doubt. But who is he laughing at? Himself? Or us?

Dylan H said...

I am definitely feeling the single high pitched piano being repeated in the coda.