Album: John Cale

Hobo Sapiens (EMI)

Tuesday 15 October 2013 09:35

Every now and then, John Cale comes up with an album which resonates strongly with the zeitgeist, such as 1974's Fear and 1982's Music for a New Society. With its dark narratives, sinister observations and animated sample-scapes, Hobo Sapiens seeks to assume a similar position with regard to our own uncertain times, but its Cassandrine qualities are somewhat sabotaged by the sheer musical zest involved, as, accompanied by co-producer Nick Franglen from Lemon Jelly, Cale throws himself headlong into his new ProTools recording environment. It's tough to play the harbinger of doom when you're having such fun collaging together scat-singing, girl's laughter, bicycle bell and kazoo (for "Bicycle"), or laying mad, Nancarrow-esque flourishes of player-piano over a montage of voices and textures (for "Twilight Zone"). The wanderlust and psycho-social interests suggested by the album title are best reflected in "Look Horizon", where an eerie jazz shuffle supports Cale as he flits across time and space, musing upon changing notions of civilisation. Though never less than interesting, some arrangements lean too heavily on trance and trip-hop beats that are a touch too industrious for their own good; but it's a much more energetic, engaged performance overall than we have any right to expect from a musician in his seventh decade.

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