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John Cale - Fear CD (album) cover


John Cale


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3.34 | 35 ratings

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3 stars On Fear, Cale manages to create a deft mix of singer/songwriter, piano man-type midtempo rockers and ballads and a darker, more hard-edged and weirder chaotic energy that mucks about underneath the well-groomed surface, hoping to find a way out. Unfortunately, it's kept on too tight a leash for the most part, only occasionally making the full jump out into the open, leaving it mostly just teasingly rippling the surface.

Uncluttered, basic, earnest (if at times a bit sentimentally honeyed) and often bass-propelled underlying arrangements engages in flirtations with diversions into tingly, screechy, confrontational atonality, skewed guitar fun and mischievous keyboard patterns and effects. Given enough time, a few of the songs willingly start to disintegrate and blur the picture, wheezing and wailing their way towards chaos.

With all his artsy smartness, Cale still has a tendency to embrace a sweetly nostalgic melancholia with orchestrated and choir-enriched woolliness, but the dreamy or more down-to-earth soft touches retain a refreshing clarity and never really take over on Fear. Instead, raw energy and commanding directness clear the air in pleasing and regular intervals. That makes the cushioned and simple richness of tingly, dreamy, grandiloquent pop feel less saturated.

While obviously a proficient song-smith and writer of catchy, driving and engaging melodies using the simplest of means and the minimum of trappings, the music sadly and quickly wears itself a bit thin in a drudging no-man's-land of pseudo-edgy anonymity. That's not to say it's really bad in any way, but the feelings of familiarity, comfort and absent-mindedness that creep into the listening experience for me is a clear sign of the material lacking staying power and the ability to arouse some proper long time interest. Fear feels a bit stuck in the mud: never hook-laden, catchy or melodious enough to drag you in that way and never experimental and challenging enough to reward more adventurous listeners.

But it remains a decent enough chunk of slightly gnarled, efficient and diverse art rock. In the impossible-to-hate-impossible-to-love category.

3 stars.


LinusW | 3/5 |


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