Friday, September 13, 2013

Guts (the compilation)

Happy Friday the 13th! No, Jason Voorhees fans, my man John isn't dressing up like your guy. Cale may have been the first to popularize the hockey mask as a symbol of derangement and murderous intent. He took up the mask sometime around 1975 for his increasingly insane live concerts. I have no evidence that the filmmakers swiped it, but they had five years and this weirdo compilation's album jacket artwork to help them do it.

And Guts is a weirdo compilation. Cale was, apparently, not a favorite of his Island Records bosses, who, as we just established, released Helen of Troy unfinished, without his consent, and deleted the best track after the first pressing. According to Robert Christgau, they didn't release Helen of Troy in the US. I've also heard that the Island albums were not very heavily promoted and were deleted quickly, though I'm failing at finding sources at the moment. Maybe Island thought the albums were too weird, veering from the pastoral and sentimental to the murderous to the parodic and absurd as they all did.

But then they decide to take a selection of Cale's most insane tracks from the three albums (along with an outtake*) as a compilation? Go figure. I've always been biased against the album because of its checkered history and the fact that it appears to have been an attempt to cash in on schlock rock in its glory days. And yet, listening to the vinyl quite a few times in the past few weeks, I have to say it works. The mood swings are what make the real Island records such interesting listening, but Fear is the only stone-cold classic in the bunch. Honing it down to a bunch of songs that occupy different places in the continuum from crazily debauched to crazily dangerous makes for a smoother, easier-to-grok listen.

You have to be in the mood for crazy, but, man, look at the cover. Hell, it's Christgau's favorite Cale record, so it worked for somebody.

* yes I realize I covered this ground pretty well in the writeup for "Mary Lou", but hell, it's Friday the 13th and this is my blog dammit.

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