Tuesday, December 10, 2013

John Cale - Fear

This 1974 album was the first of 3 albums for Island Record, culminating in Helen of Troy. Here he is again
joined by Eno, as well as Phil Manzanera (also from Roxy Music), along with Fred Smith (I'm assuming Television's drummer), Richard Thompson, Judy Nylon and more.

This album begins with "Fear is a Man's Best Friend" which starts as one of Cale's "typical" semi-ballads, but builds in intensity and with his Velvet-esque loping/sliding bass, turns into a wild, shrieking piece of crazed genius that literally falls apart under the weight of its own madness. A bit more "normal" ballad has the unusual title, "Buffalo Ballet" while "Barracuda" is a bit of a shuffle-rocker with some cool, abrasive, sawing guitar bits. "Emily" is a stark, haunting, piano ballad with waves crashing in the background, sounding ominous rather than relaxing, and a chorus of female backing vocals. There is a weird mix of cheerful, Christmas-like bells and dark melodies in "Ship of Fools" making for an oddly alluring tune.

A cool guitar riff opens "Gun", not unlike Cale's abrasive take on "Heartbreak Hotel" from Slow Dazzle, which gives us a good rock'n'roll number with a terrifically noisy lead break which was apparently done with Eno sonically manipulating Manzanera's guitar signal as it was played! Terrific stuff!  Continuing with his penchant for esoteric titles, "The Man Who Couldn't Afford to Orgy" has an old-time r'n'r shuffle feel with light, poppy vocals over it and Judy Nylon sounding quite sexy in her muffled vocals. More Beatles-esque pop in "You Know More Than I Know", which more nice female backing added, before closing with "Momamma Scuba", which again reminds me a bit of his take on "Heartbreak Hotel", with the rhythm and riff being just "off" enough to keep you on your toes while still grooving.

I think that pretty much everything that Cale did in the 70's is well worth owning and this is another exceptional record.