INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Creem APRIL 1975 - by Ed Ward
JOHN CALE: FEAR
John Cale may be the most difficult rock artist to get into of all the weirdo crew with whom he is associated. From the days of the enigmatic Vintage Violence through his association with Warner's as a staff producer to the present, which finds him in the company of various Roxy Music-Eno-Island Records bizarros, Cale's seemingly cold and distant music has held a certain fascination for his fans.
I'm one of them, and I'm damned if I can say just what I see in Cale. His lyrics are as obtuse as you'll find this side of Jethro Tull (or Ezra Pound), but his instrumental texturing and razor-sharp ear for studio-induced subtleties draw me in every time. I suspect the fact that he writes songs that are sllloooooowww, which seem to take hours to complete a verse, catches that part of my attention that gets off on drones and pedal tones.
Fear is Cale's first solo studio album since the rather tepid Paris 1919, and it's a monster. At long last, he's working with a back-up band - Phil Manzanera, Archie Leggatt, Fred Frith and Eno - that has some personality and some working knowledge of Cale's music. The results are spectacular: from the paranoiac frenzy of Fear Is A Man's Best Friend to the stop-time romanticism of Emily, this a varied, complex, and necessarily difficult album. There's even Cale-ian humor on The Man Who Couldn't Afford To Orgy (that's a soft g, John - thought you'd like to know), where Cale's wooden-voiced plaint that he is among those who can't afford it alternates with Judy Nylon's rather mechanical attempts to get him to get it on.
The most challenging stuff are the hard rock tunes on side two, Gun and Momamma Scuba, a couple of all-out screamers quite unlike anything Cale's done since The Velvets. Momamma Scuba features a different back-up band, including three slide guitarists scraping away in slow motion, guaranteed to make you feel like you're peeling your skin off with a dull razor blade.
I keep having ambivalent feelings about recommending Cale to somebody who's never heard of him before. On the other hand, what the hell - I've got no scruples. After all, you don't have to be seriously demented to like Cale - just have a taste for the unusual and extraordinary. And a healthy respect for fear.