Archive for John Cale

New Music — The Auras, P.J. Harvey, Iggy — With Which To Survive A Blizzard

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on January 27, 2016 by johnbuckley100

Snowzilla, as it was dubbed, has kept us mostly cooped up, but are we suffering from cabin fever?  Well, sure, yeah. But it would have been so much worse if we hadn’t had new music to listen to:

  • The Auras released their Saturn Day e.p. two weeks ago, and it merely confirms Tulip Frenzy was correct in giving them 2015 Psych Band of The Year honors. The six songs here continue the young Toronto band’s winning streak of Spaceman 3-inflected, Nuggets-inspired garageband excellence.
  • P.J. Harvey has given us a teaser from The Hope Six Demolition Project, which is to be released in April. “The Wheel” sounds like it could have been on 2011’s Let England Shake, if that album had been recorded with a horn section and been a narrative about Southeast DC, not Albion in WW I.  We have a calendar up on the wall with all the days marked between now and when Polly’s new one hits the world.  One fewer day after this one…
  • Iggy Pop has, as the world now knows, teamed up with Josh Homme and members of the Queens Of The Stone Age and the Arctic Monkeys to record a new album, Post Pop Depression.  We’d be excited enough by “Break Into Your Heart” — a far more welcome discovery after having been dropped onto our iPad in the middle of the night Sunday than was the two feet of snow dropped onto our streets Friday-Saturday.  But “Gardenia,” which is available both as a download and, should you be so inclined to seek it out, performed live on Colbert last week, is a revelation — Iggy’s best song since Naughty Little Doggy.  If like me, David Bowie’s death already sent you back to those great Iggy albums, well, let’s just say March can’t get here soon enough.
  • Eleanor Friedberger‘s New View is excellent , the best thing she’s done since her days with brother Matthew in the Fiery Furnaces.
  • Ty Segall‘s Emotional Mugger has not grown on us yet.  We keep trying to like it — and Lord knows we’re inclined to.  So far, it seems a muddle.
  • John Cale likewise has not stayed on the Victrola for long, even as we’ve tried grokking both M:FANS and the reissue of Music For A New Society on which it was based.  We stand second to none in our admiration of the great Welshman, but we’re getting a little concerned that we haven’t liked much that Cale has put out since blackAcetate in 2005.
  • Heaters became known to us via Uncut‘s review of their 2015 Holy Water Pool, which if you like the Cramps and can imagine how a psych band could make optimal use of  Poison Ivy’s infectious riffs, you will love.

Finally, we have to offer a preview of coming Tulip Frenzy mania: through diving into Heaters, pulling on threads until we discovered bands they play with in their midwest stomping grounds, we discovered Heaven’s Gateway Drugs.  Wow.  Go download their 2015 single “Copper Hill,” which sounds like the Warlocks cast a potion on The Auras in Olympic Studios circa 1967.  More on these guys, we promise — especially since a new album (their third) is in the cards for 2016.

And how can we honestly talk about the music we’ve listened to this past week without just declaring All Bowie, All The Time?


Dean Wareham Steers Us To One Of The Great Lost Albums Of The ’70s

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 18, 2013 by johnbuckley100

On his masterful new mini-LP, Emancipated Hearts, Dean Wareham plays a cover of the Incredible String Band’s “Air.” We hadn’t thought about the ISB for some years, with the exception of reading producer Joe Boyd’s terrific memoir, White Bicycles, which came out in 2006.  We didn’t love the Incredible String Band, but we really loved the solo album, released in 1971, by Mike Heron, Smiling Men With Bad Reputations.  Let me tell you just a few things about it, which should send you directly to Amazon, which miraculously dropped a copy of the CD  off at our front door after we found our old LP was a mite too scratchy for aural bliss.

ISB was a British folk trio in a Golden Age that produced bands like Fairport Convention.  But Mike Heron, like Dylan before him, was at heart a rocker, and when it came time to step out from the Incredible String Band and produce a solo album, he did so with such friends as Steve Winwood,  Richard Thompson, Dave Mattacks and Dave Pegg, Pete Townshend and Keith Moon, Jimmy Page, Elton John, Ronnie Lane, and John Cale.  Some lineup, huh?  Members of Traffic, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Fairport Convention, the Velvet Underground, and the Faces.  The only bands missing were the Beatles and the Stones.  The album is amazing.

There are a number of highlights, but for us the big one always was the song “Warm Heart Pastry,” which in the original album cover credited “Tommy and the Bijous” as the backup band.  It was, of course, Townshend and Moon, with Ronnie Lane on bass and John Cale on viola, and it is one of the great lost rockers of the era.  The whole thing is a long-lost delight — “Beautiful Stranger” sounds like it was left on the cutting room floor when Dear Mr. Fantasy was produced.  And on the CD, two bonus tracks are included, which brings “Lady Wonder,” with a raucous Jimmy Page playing slashing slide guitar, to light for the first time.

We love the new Dean Wareham album.  We’re especially indebted to him for having given us the added bonus of reminding us about this great lost masterpiece.  Go find Mike Heron’s Smiling Men With Bad Reputations.

45 Years Later, “The Velvet Underground & Nico” Gets Its Due

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on November 1, 2012 by johnbuckley100

It makes perfect sense, when you think about it, that even in its expensive 6-disk repackaging, the 45th anniversary edition of The Velvet Underground & Nico arrived with snafus.  We’re not talking about the delay in delivery to our home, as UPS dug its way out of the post-Sandy mess.  (And we really are trying to stay away from thinking that there is a connection between the release of this most epochal document produced by New York’s Downtown and the tidal flooding and blackout conditions that hit there literally the day this box set was released…)

The problem is: this most snakebit of iconic albums — recorded quickly in a studio in a condemned building, its original release delayed over a critical 11-month period between ’66 and ’67, and then upon release withdrawn from circulation because the label wouldn’t pay up for the rights to a single photograph on the back cover — has now gotten the full’n’reverential treatment, costing as much ($81.00) as the rent Lou Reed and John Cale likely paid for their apartment on the Lower East Side when they made the bloody thing.  And yet Polydor seems to have forgotten to register the songs with the Gracenote online database.  Thus last night, when we dropped the first cd into our iMac, no song titles registered.  Perfect. Its six discs now sit in our computer as unidentified files.

Recorded in April 1966 but unreleased until late winter ’67, it took years for the first Velvets album to reach its full effect, a sleeper cell that didn’t start doing real damage until nearly ten years later.  The ur-document of ’70s punk rock, the album that earlier knocked Bowie’s trajectory wonderfully off kilter, from singing Anthony Newley-esque show tunes to ultimately becoming Ziggy Stardust… that inspired artists as disparate as Brian Eno and Jonathan Richmond… that provided the context in which thinking American punk bands like Pere Ubu could develop, The Velvet Underground & Nico was the counterculture to the counterculture, a harsh and black-clad concoction from Lower Manhattan served to a tiny sliver of the world while San Francisco, LA and London were sipping electric Kool-Aid and happily marveling at technicolor landscapes.

Of course it ended up being released the same week as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, to which it served as some reverse image: apogee of darkened New York streets while the Beatles, living now on vast country estates, turned the world on to a dramatically rosier reality.  The Velvet Underground & Nico was a monochromatic production out of step with what was bubbling up in rock music.  Whether it had come out in ’66 or not, this album would have been out of step with its West Coast counterparts, making the seeming misalignment betweenTimothy Leary and Ken Kesey, previously dramatized as an East-West conflict, seem like just an ego trip.  The Velvets weren’t just off the bus, as proper New Yorkers they didn’t even know how to drive.

Brian Eno once famously said that “only 30,000 people bought the first Velvet Underground album, but they all started bands.”  According to the liner notes, he was a bit off on that — by 1969, it had sold nearly 60,000 copies — but he sure was right about its limited impact on the mass culture contrasted against its complete influence on a later generation of musicians.  Without the Velvet Underground, there would have been no Modern Lovers, nor Talking Heads.  So many of the bands we love — from the Brian Jonestown Massacre to Galaxie 500/Luna, from the Jesus and Mary Chain to the Feelies, from Roxy Music to Spiritualized, Spaceman 3 to Pere Ubu — were direct musical descendants of the VU, a completely logical claim can be made that, in terms of the influence they were to have, the Velvet Underground were every bit the equals of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Dylan.  And it all started with this album.

How Lou Reed, a street-smart poet steeped in a Brill Building pop sensibility, could have combined forces with the suave and classically trained John Cale, and then been directed by Andy Warhol to install Nico, a model born in pre-war Cologne, as the band’s resident chanteuse, is one of those pop music myths rivaled only by stories of John meeting Paul, Mick running into Keith on the bus, and now Gonzalez’s records finding their way to South Africa.

An argument can be made that it was really only after John Cale left  that what today we recognize as “the Velvets sound” came into being.  For arguably it was the Velvet Underground’s eponymous third album — without Cale, but with the guitar-dominant songs like “What Goes On” — that we hear echoed in our favorite bands. Much later, after the Velvets had been rediscovered by both British and New York punks, came the motherlode of accidentally rediscovered tapes, packaged and released in ’84 as VU.  Among the bands we like, it was perhaps the most influential album of the 1980s, at least until the Pixies arrived, because it unearthed legendary songs that weirdly had the power of locking in a VU sound that studio albums only implied. The various live albums, crudely recorded as they were, offered tantalizing hints as to what the Velvets were really all about, but VU delivered, not so much rock as a Rosetta Stone.  By then, apart for 15 years, Cale and Reed had guaranteed their status as masters, following a series of incredible solo albums, and in a way, we’d come to think of Velvets as mere antecedents to the more important oeuvre of the two founders.  VU reflated the Velvets mythos with a set of jaw-droppingly great Lou Reed songs — from “I Can’t Stand It” to “Foggy Notion” — and every band I knew instantly wanted to sound like that.

There is no argument it was this first album that created the context for the band’s steady influence, still powerful 45 years on.  It’s funny in a way, now that gay marriage is accepted by a majority of Americans, and a popular sitcom like Modern Family makes jokes about sadomasochism, to think about just how radical it was for a band to have recorded, in 1966,  a song like “Venus In Furs,” with its whiff of the tawdry from dirty French novels.

There hasn’t been a concomitant acceptance of the album’s more shocking context, which was the elevation of heroin.  It must have been so confusing to the audience at the rock ballroom in Ohio where, in 1966, the show included on Disks 5 and 6 was recorded, to hear not just “Waiting For The Man,” but “Heroin,” with Cale’s viola mimicking the feeling that Reed’s lyrics described.  Most of the audience had probably just started smoking pot, a few of the more adventuresome having tried LSD.  And here were these weirdos from New York singing about blood in the dropper before the heroin hits their veins.  We’re grateful that sexual mores have changed since ’66, even as we wonder how many victims there were among those who took the signal from this album that it was darkly glamorous to try smack.  The Velvet Underground & Nico was a far more revolutionary — and dangerous — document than anything that came out of San Francisco, London, or LA that year. And even as we praise it, and admire it for pushing musical boundaries, we’re glad that its glamorization of heroin had a more limited cultural impact.

The Velvets, to our knowledge, have shown up in fictionalized form in two movies.  We see Andy Warhol’s Exploding Fantastic Inevitable in “I Shot Andy Warhol,” and we think we remember a scene where Jim Morrison sees the Velvets play during their stint at the Dom in Oliver Stone’s The Doors.  The Doors may have been the only contemporary band to have truly embraced what these East Coast hipsters were up to in ’67.  Theirs was a music of mystery and violence, with no rosy eyed hippie bullshit.  And of course it makes sense, under the circumstances, that Jim Morrison died of a heroin overdose.

The Velvet Underground & Nico caught a band so far ahead of its time — so out of step with even the hippest quadrants of its moment — that it took more than a decade before New York bands like Television, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, and the Talking Heads would consolidate the gains Reed, Cale, Sterling Morrison, and Mo Tucker made in a scuzzy studio in a two-day session.  Rock music had no infrastructure to support the Velvet Underground.  There was no Pitchfork keeping its ear to the ground and alerting the cognoscenti to the next big’n’obscure thing.  There was no FM radio to make sure college towns heard what was happening in precincts far removed.  Instead, there was AM radio in search of hits, and even as Lou Reed could churn songs out, few were the DJs or A&R men eager to play songs about shooting heroin or licking someone’s boot while the whip comes down.

Here we have the original album (Disk 1), its mono version (2), Nico’s Chelsea Girls in its entirety (3), rehearsal tapes and early recordings (4), and the aforementioned live sets.  Yes, an expensive release for true obsessives.  We deem it well justified, given how glorious this music is, how much it can still blow the mind.  Now if the record label could only get the tracks entered into the proper data base, so our iMac would recognize them as not Xs and Os, but as the incendiary songs that they still are.

UPDATE: As of Friday, November 2nd, the database has updated, and all six CDs have been identified inside my iMac.

John Cale’s “Shifty Adventures In Nookie Wood” Is Solid

Posted in Music with tags , on October 6, 2012 by johnbuckley100

John Cale and Bob Dylan are about the same age.  Cale still possesses one of rock’s greatest voices.  Dylan not so much.  We know that it can’t be because Cale’s lived a life free of vices; the former Velvet Underground mainstay has been quite upfront about the stretches when he dodged clean living.  No, more likely the Welshman’s baritone, still gorgeous, is a simple genetic marvel, like Keith Richards’ heart.  And when we listen to Shifty Adventures In Nookie Wood, released this week, we’re grateful.

It has been seven years since Cale released blackAcetate, which was as strong as anything he’s done since those classic albums from the ’70s, Fear, Helen of Troy, and  Slow Dazzle among them.  Last year, he released a compelling e.p., Extra Playful, but we weren’t prepared for how strong Shifty Adventures is.  Starting with “I Wanna Talk 2U,” in which, natch, Danger Mouse helps it achieve liftoff, Cale makes clear he’s not some septuagenarian ready for the shuffleboard deck, but as vibrant and determined a rocker as ever he was.  This is an album that is at once utterly contemporary and timeless, gorgeous and sharp-edged, melodic and urgent.  In short, a classic John Cale album.

Maybe the comparison to Dylan is inapt, as Cale has had different personas over time — balladeer, hard rocker, experimental artist, viola player and punk rocker.  He’s released great albums in each of the last six decades — yeah, six decades, going back to the Warhol-banana festooned Velvets intro in ’67 — and Shifty Adventures In Nookie Wood continues the streak.

%d bloggers like this: