In the intervening years since his last solo album (2005’s patchy ‘blackAcetate’), John Cale has contributed on LCD Soundsystem and Shortwave Set records, produced albums by Alejandro Escovedo and Ambulance Ltd and represented Wales at the 2009 Venice Biennale. In 2010, Cale toured his seminal ‘Paris 1919’ album, while last year he was invited by Nobel Peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi to play at the Brighton Festival. The Velvet Underground pioneer, who turned seventy in March, shows no sign of steadying his innate creative restlessness.
This new album (a first full-length release on Double Six after last September’s ‘Extra Playful’ EP), sees Cale fuse his state-of-the-art LA studio gadgetry to an undimmed desire for experimentation. With the Welsh icon making full use of technology, there is a maximal feel to ‘Shifty Adventures’. At times the effects are superb; opener ‘I Wanna Talk 2 U’ - created during a jam session with Danger Mouse - is an elegant, adult pop song. Better still is the spiky judder of ‘Scotland Yard’ and the space-funk of ‘Hemingway’.
However, there are wobbles with the quality control - ‘Nookie Wood’ is an artfully arranged slice of electro-soul that suffers from the clunking lyric of the chorus. ‘December Rains’ never recovers from Cale’s noble vocal being shredded through a vocoder, while the urgent beats of ‘Mary’ cannot hide the limpest of melodies. But, these niggles aside, for an artist in his eighth decade, John Cale’s continued boundary-pushing is nigh-on astonishing.
Words by JOHN FREEMAN