Tuesday, May 16, 2023

John Cale 5: Fear

A switch to Island Records put him John Cale touch with some like-minded individuals who, like and with him, recorded a series of albums that predicted both punk and New Wave, both in sound and subject matter. Fear is consistent with his earlier song-based albums, while also being a departure. (Brian Eno is credited as contributing “Eno”; he and Cale also worked on Nico’s album that year.)
Dramatic piano chords open “Fear Is A Man’s Best Friend” before a more stately figure with guitar accompaniment carries the song proper. Things wind up in the choruses, and Cale ends the song nearly screaming as the arrangement falls apart. This makes “Buffalo Ballet” even prettier, despite the sad lyrics about the transformation of the Old West (admittedly, the auteur says, from a Welsh point of view). “Barracuda” is a little more rock ‘n roll, with dark poetry and a demented viola solo, all while reminding us that “the ocean will have us all.” This in turn makes the near seaside lullaby of “Emily” that much more perverse. Continuing the nautical theme, “Ship Of Fools” nicely varies between major figures and major-seventh figures for another nice-sounding track that’s fairly inscrutable.
“Gun” brings back the nasty rock, with a stark narrative, a tasty riff and an extended guitar solo from Phil Manzanera that more than fits the mood for over eight minutes. Softer, and not how you think, is “The Man Who Couldn’t Afford To Orgy”, which American listeners will be confused to hear rhymed with “porky”. Eno pal Judy Nylon coos throughout and amazingly, this was a single. We would have gone with the more straightforward but just as tuneful “You Know More Than I Know”. Besides, his delivery of “what crap” is wonderful. “Momamma Scuba” manages to combine the menace of “Gun” with the nautical imagery of side one over a band featuring Richard Thompson.
Thanks to the players, Fear has an edge over Paris 1919, and therefore sounds more natural. It was almost like he was getting used to being a frontman.

John Cale Fear (1974)—3

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