John Cale POPtical Illusion (Domino) 13th Floor Album Review

John Cale continues to prove to be one of music’s most vital, most intriguing and most influential artists with this, his second album in as many years.

John CaleAt age 82, the former Velvet Undergrounder shows no signs of slowing down. And his fierce Welsh growl has lost none of its bite.

Where last year’s MERCY found JC collaborating with the likes of Weyes Blood, Fat White Family and Animal Collective, this time around its just Cale and co-producer Nita Scott.

According to the accompanying press blurb, John Cale remains angry, railing at capitalists and con men.

Opening track God Made Me Do It (don’t ask me again) finds Cale sounding more resigned than furious as that distinctive voice croons, “There’s someone whispering in my ear tonight” over a bed of synths and electronic beats.

The following track, Davies and Wales is more upbeat…even, dare I say it…cheery, going all reflective, urging the listener to “avoid the mistakes we made when we were younger”.

Later, on Edge Of Reason, Cale throws a nod to the past, growling, “fear is a man’s best friend”, but assuring us , “we can reverse the hate”.

Anyone who has followed John Cale’s long, illustrious career knows that he follows his own muse and that’s certainly true here.

Where other artists of his vintage may sound like the clock is running out, Cale seems to be looking forward even as he takes lessons from the past.

Musically, we hear a “classic Cale” piano pounding on How We See The Light and the beats get darker as our man electronically alters that voice for the powerful Company Commander.

Cale’s anger rises on Setting Fires and Shark-Shark…the former finds him wanting to set fire to everything while the latter features a very noisy, very metallic electric guitar.

John Cale has never made music for the faint-hearted. His voice is an instrument unto itself…a thing of beauty or a tool for terror.

The album closes with There Will Be No River, possible a light at the end of a dark tunnel. “The thunderstorms are gone” Cale notes, “beam me down Scotty”, he commands.

At this stage in the game, who would argue with him?

Marty Duda

John Cale’s POPtical Illusion is released on Domino Record Friday, June 14th.

POPtical Illusion will be available on 2xLP, CD, and digitally.
Pre-order POPtical IllusionPhysical | Digital