Gramps Has Been in the Gin Jar

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2 .3 Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood  by  John Cale
Released: 10/01/2012 • Label: Domino Records

The man who truly needs no introduction. Having collaborated with such esteemed artists as La Monte Young, Hector Zazou, Kevin Ayers, Terry Riley, John Cage, responsible for some of Nico’s greatest output, founding member of The Velvet Underground, and partial solo work which is unparalleled in quality and depth. A true icon of modern times. A man who has maintained an exceptional standard throughout his career and leaves modern day songwriters in the dust.

Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood is John Cale‘s fly in the ointment.

It strikes me that lately we have seen a lot of feeble releases from “once-hero’s”. Maybe it’s time to implement a retirement plan in rock stars contracts. After reaching 55 you must refrain from wearing tight jeans, dating women younger than your youngest daughter, and most certainly refrain from recording such godawful rubbish as this.

I saw John Cale last year. Quite looked forward to it. Left dejected. I blamed the disastrous night on the young band he had brought with him, and had already began to formulate personalities for them all. There was Erik the Dutch guitarist who was a homeschool nerd from Leeuwarden. Erik loved prog. Erik wanted to show everyone what he could do on a guitar. Then there was Hiro, from Japan. Hiro is a quiet fellow who shies away from social involvement and spends most of his tour reading manga and drinking bubble tea. Hiro stands back and plays bass systematically. Then there is Duncan, the drummer. He likes PG Tips, walks by the beach, and sudoku. He plays as tight as he can and stays away from the bright stage lights. Then there’s John. He’s the boss. He is cantankerous. Enjoys shouting at the band and belittling them. He is in charge. I see him turning at least 18 times and looking back at Hiro trying to signal that his bass is too loud. Hiro is too busy remembering his parts. Erik comes over and whispers into his ear. Shock and disbelief (read: terror) washes over his face as he scrambles back to the Ampeg stack and lowers his stage volume. John looks slightly more placid. The show moves on. Embarrassingly. Each song takes on a tacky 80’s flavour to it, and not in that nostalgic, euphoric way.

I blamed the band. And I apologize. Listening to Shifty Adventures passes the ball straight back into Cale’s half of the pitch. He’s been caught with his trousers down.

Everyone has seen 60 year olds walking down the road with their dodgy leather jacket or a haircut that betrayed their head 30 years before. We’ve all had our silent chuckle at their expense. John Cale has tried to reign in his youthful side, and sadly for him the whole world can chuckle.

“I Wanna Talk 2 You”, Cale’s collaboration with Dangermouse, offers the listener the perfect reason to just turn the stereo off immediately. It doesn’t get any better than this, and it most definitely gets worse. “Mothra” surely will haunt him on his deathbed. How that one slipped past the “WTF?” radar is beyond me. “Living With You” restores a grain of rice to the opposing end of the dung scale, although insipid and largely forgettable, at least it lacks most of the effect-laden wankings. “December Rains” would have created the biggest backlash of critical ramblings since Justin Bieber cut his hair if it hadn’t been made by Cale, who seems to have been largely forgiven (even lauded) by the press for this latest album. Have I missed something?

John Cale has only just discovered auto-tune (regretfully) and a few racks of effects in the studio. He couldn’t help himself. He’s gotten drunk on his own curiosity, and we’re left with the hangover.

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